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1. ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

While most comics fans started New York Comic Con on Thursday, the die-hard industry insiders and watchers began their “con crush” on Wednesday. ICV2.com once again hosted their annual conference at the Javits Center, choosing the theme: The New Comics Customer.

As is the tradition, each conference is inaugurated with an industry white paper. Milton Griepp, CEO of ICV2, collates a huge chunk of industry data and translates those numbers into words and pictures.

The following are my photos from the presentation, along with my commentary.
This website was a sponsor of the conference, and Heidi MacDonald was gracious to comp me a pass, although I’ve paid to attend all of the previous ICV2 conferences in the past.


 

2014 10 08 13.06.15 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

If you want to know what goes on in comics retailing, you should visit this site! ICV2.com! (Home of the Top 300!)

2014 10 08 13.07.04 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

OOOooohhhh…. How much? Who many? When? Which? Why? Classic questions that have bedeviled mankind ever since they started telling stories by painting comics on cave walls!

2014 10 08 13.08.47 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

Note that newsstand sales account for $25 Million. Also, that in comics shops, comic books outsell graphic novels 2:1 in dollars.

2014 10 08 13.10.32 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?
2014 10 08 13.10.45 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

2014 10 08 13.11.56 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

2014 10 08 13.12.20 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

Oooh… almost a constant slope on the current trend! Will we hit One. Million. Dollars. by 2015?  2014?

2014 10 08 13.13.44 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?
2014 10 08 13.14.40 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?
2014 10 08 13.15.02 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?
2014 10 08 13.16.08 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

2014 10 08 13.17.05 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

Note that the decrease in manga brings the total down. But 2% fewer titles than last year? Hmm…

2014 10 08 13.18.23 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

What are the trends for the current year?

2014 10 08 13.20.57 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

2014 10 08 13.23.56 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

…and the invisible categories: libraries and book fairs?

2014 10 08 13.24.46 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

2014 10 08 13.25.09 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

(See that elephant over there? The one that says:
*the male:female ratio of readers skews female.
*women read more books than men
*80% of fiction is read by women)

2014 10 08 13.26.33 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

2014 10 08 13.36.09 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

(To which the elephant pipes up and mentions that most book clubs and book blogs are run by women.)

2014 10 08 13.37.50 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

Books and merchandise.

2014 10 08 13.39.48 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?
2014 10 08 13.40.44 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?
2014 10 08 13.41.13 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?…and then time taken for a few questions.

8 Comments on ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?, last added: 10/20/2014
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2. Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king

Saga01 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king

It’s been a while (5 years)  since we looked at Diamond’s monthly backlist chart, and now, as then, it reveals a VERY DIFFERENT ranking for publishers. In the backlist, DC is king by a wide margin, with about 30% of the market. Marvel is only a tich above Image in units, while Image books dominate the top ten with Saga, Walking Dead, and Sex Criminals. On the manga side, Attack on Titan rules, no surprise given the way it’s single handedly revitalized the category.

Backlist charts reflect perennial graphic novel sellers that sell out over time rather than the more volatile monthly periodicals. It’s also a source of steady income for publishers; once you get ahit on the backlist you just sit back and fill order.

Marvel actually charts with a bunch of Deadpool books, and DC has fewer tites, mostly Batman. Why the discrepancy? While I’ll have to investigate the chart more fully in months to come, its no secret that DC has the most well developed backlist of any publisher. Although they aren’t showing up in this particular chart, I’d guess that classics like Watchmen, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, and the ongoing New 52 program is doing very well. They are much more focused on this particular channel.

It’s interesting to see Marvel books here given all their well documented problems keeping books in print. Thanks to Diamond for permission to reprint this information.

 


SEPTEMBER 2014 BACKLIST MARKET SHARES

Vendor

Dollar Share

 

Vendor

Unit Share

DC COMICS

30.51%

DC COMICS

29.76%

MARVEL COMICS

19.02%

MARVEL COMICS

17.40%

IMAGE COMICS

10.98%

IMAGE COMICS

15.28%

DARK HORSE COMICS

10.71%

DARK HORSE COMICS

10.58%

IDW PUBLISHING

4.35%

VIZ LLC

3.72%

RANDOM HOUSE

3.27%

IDW PUBLISHING

3.38%

VIZ LLC

2.55%

RANDOM HOUSE

3.34%

FUNKO

1.50%

FUNKO

1.93%

BOOM ENTERTAINMENT

1.42%

BOOM ENTERTAINMENT

1.67%

DIAMOND SELECT TOYS LLC

1.28%

ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS

1.17%

OTHER

14.43%

OTHER

11.77%

TOTAL

0.94%

TOTAL

100.00%

Image?pd=newsimages&pf=154388 642605 4 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king Image?pd=newsimages&pf=154388 642606 5 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king
Larger Versions
Dollar
/ Unit


SEPTEMBER 2014
 BACKLIST TOP SELLERS

TOP 25 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAUG120491D

SAGA TP VOL 01 (MR)

$9.99

IMA

2

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN140556D

SAGA TP VOL 03 (MR)

$14.99

IMA

3

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR130443D

SAGA TP VOL 02 (MR)

$14.99

IMA

4

15

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN140558D

SEX CRIMINALS TP VOL 01 (MR)

$9.99

IMA

5

7

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV128157D

WALKING DEAD TP VOL 01 DAYS GONE BYE

$14.99

IMA

6

8

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR130727D

DEADPOOL TP VOL 01 DEAD PRESIDENTS NOW

$15.99

MAR

7

34

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN130466D

EAST OF WEST TP VOL 01 THE PROMISE

$9.99

IMA

8

14

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY140652D

WALKING DEAD TP VOL 21 ALL OUT WAR PT 2 (MR)

$14.99

IMA

9

13

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingDEC120323D

BATMAN TP VOL 01 THE COURT OF OWLS (N52)

$16.99

DC

10

12

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV070226D

BATMAN THE KILLING JOKE SPECIAL ED HC

$17.99

DC

11

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR140949F

BRYAN LEE O MALLEY SECONDS GN (C: 1-1-0)

$25.00

RAN

12

43

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY140626D

DEADLY CLASS TP VOL 01 REAGAN YOUTH (MR)

$9.99

IMA

13

17

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL130235D

BATMAN TP VOL 02 THE CITY OF OWLS (N52)

$16.99

DC

14

49

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN140555D

RAT QUEENS TP VOL 01 SASS & SORCERY (MR)

$9.99

IMA

15

4

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR130732D

DEADPOOL BY DANIEL WAY COMPLETE COLL TP VOL 01

$34.99

MAR

16

16

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV118095D

BATMAN DARK KNIGHT RETURNS TP

$19.99

DC

17

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL110745D

INFINITY GAUNTLET TP

$24.99

MAR

18

11

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY090178D

BATMAN HUSH COMPLETE TP

$24.99

DC

19

27

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAUG120709D

DEADPOOL KILLS MARVEL UNIVERSE TP

$14.99

MAR

20

57

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR140535D

BLACK SCIENCE TP VOL 01 HOW TO FALL FOREVER (MR)

$9.99

IMA

21

29

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP088204D

WALKING DEAD TP VOL 02 MILES BEHIND US (NEW PTG)

$14.99

IMA

22

24

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB140248D

BATMAN TP VOL 03 DEATH OF THE FAMILY (N52)

$16.99

DC

23

35

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL100030V

SERENITY SHEPHERDS TALE HC (C: 0-1-2)

$14.99

DAR

24

36

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingDEC130494D

EAST OF WEST TP VOL 02 WE ARE ALL ONE

$14.99

IMA

25

22

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP110038V

SERENITY HC VOL 01 THOSE LEFT BEHIND 2ND ED

$17.99

DAR

TOP 10 MANGA

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR121101F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 01 (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

RAN

2

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN121182F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 02 (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

RAN

3

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV101063E

DEATH NOTE BLACK ED TP VOL 01 (C: 1-0-1)

$14.99

VIZ

4

8

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP131224F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 09 (C: 1-1-1)

$10.99

RAN

5

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL111150F

SAILOR MOON TP KODANSHA ED VOL 01 (C: 0-1-2)

$10.99

RAN

6

11

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN141232F

ATTACK ON TITAN BEFORE THE FALL GN VOL 01 (C: 1-0-0)

$10.99

RAN

7

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAUG131498E

UZUMAKI 3IN1 DLX ED HC (C: 1-0-1)

$27.99

VIZ

8

13

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP121137F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 03 (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

RAN

9

14

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR141262F

ATTACK ON TITAN NO REGRETS GN VOL 01 (C: 1-0-0)

$10.99

RAN

10

16

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB141327F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 12 (C: 1-1-0)

$10.99

RAN

TOP 10 BOOKS

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR141239E

OVERSTREET COMIC BK PG SC VOL 44 BATMAN CVR

$29.95

GEM

2

4

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP120055V

LEGEND OF ZELDA HYRULE HISTORIA HC (C: 1-1-2)

$34.99

DAR

3

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingDEC131413F

MARVEL ENCYCLOPEDIA HC 75TH ANNIV ED (C: 0-1-0)

$40.00

DK

4

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR141240E

OVERSTREET COMIC BK PG HC VOL 44 BATMAN

$35.00

GEM

5

10

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY131402F

ADVENTURE TIME ENCYCLOPEDIA HC

$19.95

ABR

6

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR140463J

MIKE MIGNOLA HELLBOY ARTIST ED (NET)

$95.00

IDW

7

16

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB121318H

DARTH VADER AND SON HC (C: 0-1-1)

$14.95

CHR

8

20

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY131497F

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE STAR WARS HC (C: 0-1-1)

$14.95

RAN

9

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR141241E

OVERSTREET COMIC BK PG SC VOL 44 VAMPIRELLA CVR

$29.95

GEM

10

21

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY141838F

GOODNIGHT DARTH VADER HC (C: 0-1-0)

$14.95

CHR

TOP 10 TOYS

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingOCT120316Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 SUPERMAN ACTION FIGURE

$24.95

DC

2

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP130327Y

DC COMICS SUPER VILLAINS HARLEY QUINN AF

$24.95

DC

3

8

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB140306Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 RED HOOD AF

$24.95

DC

4

25

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN132334I

POP TMNT MICHELANGELO VINYL FIG (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

FUN

5

27

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN132333I

POP TMNT DONATELLO VINYL FIG (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

FUN

6

10

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB140307Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 STARFIRE AF

$24.95

DC

7

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV138235Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE 7 PACK AF BOX SET

$99.95

DC

8

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB108045U

DOCTOR WHO 11TH DOCTOR SONIC SCREWDRIVER (C: 1-1-3)

$34.99

UND

9

7

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN140403Y

DC COMICS SUPER VILLAINS ARMORED LEX LUTHOR DLX AF

$49.95

DC

10

18

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL128115Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 BATMAN ACTION FIGURE

$24.95

DC

TOP 10 GAMES

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN118204J

RISK LEGACY (C: 1-1-4)

$32.99

HAS

2

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingOCT128266I

WALKING DEAD COMIC ED PX MONOPOLY (C: 1-1-2)

$39.99

USA

3

4

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN120128U

GAME OF THRONES PLAYING CARDS (C: 1-0-0)

$4.99

DAR

4

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingOCT128267I

WALKING DEAD COMIC ED PX RISK (C: 1-1-2)

$49.99

USA

5

12

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY142826E

DC DECK BUILDING GAME CRISIS EXP PK 1 (C: 1-1-2)

$20.00

CRY

6

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV074603G

SETTLERS OF CATAN NEW ED (C: 0-1-2)

$42.00

ALL

7

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY132319I

FIREFLY BOARD GAME (C: 0-1-2)

$49.99

ALL

8

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP122060E

BATMAN ARKHAM CITY ESCAPE BOARD GAME (C: 1-1-3)

$45.00

CRY

9

10

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR043750G

TICKET TO RIDE (C: 4)

$50.00

DOW

10

7

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN138233G

DC HEROCLIX BATMAN CLASSIC TV 24 CT GRAVITY FEED DS

$71.76

NEC

TOP 5 PRINTS & POSTERS

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN140748D

GUARDIANS OF GALAXY #18 BY ALEX ROSS POSTER

$8.99

MAR

2

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY140951D

ROCKET RACCOON #1 POSTER

$8.99

MAR

3

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY140950D

CAPTAIN AMERICA #22 75TH ANNIV BY ROSS POSTER

$8.99

MAR

4

4

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY138368D

AVENGERS VS X-MEN BY YOUNG POSTER NEW PTG

$8.99

MAR

5

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR140788D

DEADPOOL WEDDING BY KOBLISH POSTER

$8.99

MAR

TOP 5 APPAREL

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN128314J

ADVENTURE TIME DLX FINN HAT (NET) (C: 1-1-2)

$9.95

ZOO

2

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN120131U

GAME OF THRONES PIN HAND OF KING (C: 3)

$12.99

DAR

3

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSTAR00972U

BATMAN SYMBOL I BLK T/S LG

$18.95

GRA

4

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV111316U

SUPERMAN 52 SYMBOL T/S MED (C: 1-1-3)

$18.95

GRA

5

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV053538U

FANTASTIC FOUR FOURRIOR BLK T/S XL (C: 0-1-3)

$16.99

MAD

TOP 5 NOVELTIES

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL121877I

SW DEATH STAR SILICONE TRAY (C: 1-1-4)

$9.99

KOT

2

16

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingDEC050058U

COOP KEEP EM HONEST PLAYING CARDS (C: 0-1-2)

$4.99

DAR

3

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN120134U

GAME OF THRONES COASTER SET HOUSE SIGIL (C: 1-0-0)

$9.99

DAR

4

22

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAUG110057U

MASS EFFECT PLAYING CARDS (C: 0-1-2)

$4.99

DAR

5

10

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR120059U

GAME OF THRONES COASTER SET SEASON 2

$9.99

DAR

 

10 Comments on Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king, last added: 10/17/2014
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3. TGI-FOC // Adventures in Marketing

Welcome to TGI-FOC, a weekly feature at The Beat about comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of the retail process that don’t merit a full column. I changed the name, for reasons. It’s a thing now.

RECOMMENDATIONS

It’s come up recently, so here’s the quick rundown of how I sell and recommend comics. First rule? Every comic is someone’s favourite. From AXIS to Tarot to Lumberjanes and beyond, there’s someone out there who is going to be blown away by the contents of a random comic. The goal, as always, is to match the comic to the audience, and to offer as little commentary as possible – unless asked point blank for an opinion. There’s a huge difference between “what’s this book about” and “what do you think of this book” – though in my experience, very few retailers and readers realize this. The amount of times I’ve heard people answer “what’s this book about” with “it sucks” is staggering, and it makes me sad. What if the person is the type who’d enjoy something you wouldn’t? When giving a recommendation or warning a potential reader of the dangers of reading, context is always key – which brings me to the second rule: always, always, always find out what a person likes before handing out recommendations. Do this by asking about their likes outside of the medium. It’s the best way to get the full range of a person’s likes, and it does a hell of a lot more for you than “I like Batman” or “I guess Saga is pretty good”.

Something to avoid? Recommending comics because you over ordered, or ordered lots. When you’re asked for a recommendation, someone is trusting you to help them out, not yourself. And sure, you might move a few copies of the book you over ordered, but at what price? If the customer doesn’t like the book, you’re going to have a harder time trying to sell them books in the future. Forget about the short term gain, and build a relationship that will help sustain your business. This is the reason why I never recommend books like AXIS to new readers – even if they’re looking for a book that has “a little bit of everyone in it”. A book like AXIS, you recommend to the folks who live and breathe Marvel, and the smattering of others who would be interested in the kind of bombastic story presented within. By and large, this kind of customer has a working knowledge of comics and a bit of the history – or at least enough to get them through the story with little incident. You would never, ever toss a new reader straight into the deep end, unless you knew they liked a bit of a challenge and like to troll Wikipedia (I have a few customers like that).

Anyway, there’s something out there for everyone, and little is accomplished by tearing down without context, at least as a retailer.

MARKETING

I’m not sure what the deal with October is, but I’m pretty sure the comic companies are trying to drown me in product. The first two weeks of the month have been weighed down with a lot of product, and after going through the FOCs for the last few weeks, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see lighter weeks any time soon. The one good thing? The torrent of product gives me a lot of material to work with when it comes to talking about comics and marketing.

First, a big thumbs up for IDW’s push of V-Wars.

IMG 0385 e1413004233391 1000x615 TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

What you have there is a picture of the first trade (just $9.99), a value priced rerelease of the first issue ($1), and the clearly marked start of the second story arc. That’s a pretty good way of making sure anyone can try and continue to buy the series with relative ease.

IMG 0386 e1413004274799 1000x553 TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

Elsewhere, DC’s digital division hit the nail on the head by having the print editions of Flash: Season Zero #1 and Arrow: Season 2.5 #1 hit the stands just before and on their premieres respectively. People who were already excited about both shows found additional product, and others who didn’t know the shows were on or coming back were made aware. DC went the extra mile with Arrow by offering the first issue of Year One for a dollar, and having a great jumping on point in the character’s regular DCU ongoing (with one of the show runners acting as co-writer). As for The Flash, a solid effort was put in, but man, having a “Year One” story available for Barry Allen in the DCU would have been a great move, even if it was just the start of a mini set in current continuity.

As it stands, DC has been having a digital sale on a bunch of great <em>Flash</em> reads over at ComiXology, and has been doing so since the show premiered, so that’s pretty cool.

IMG 0387 e1413004299950 771x1028 TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

On the other hand, I’m not exactly sure what DC’s plans are for Constantine. I know they’re going to have a dollar book available when the show hits the airwaves, but where’s a good place for new fans to drop in on an ongoing? As it stands, my go-to is going to be recommending the newly minted Hellblazer trades and move things from there, but it hurts that I can’t point new readers in the direction of something currently in motion. The most recent issue of Constantine was an Earth Two tie in, which would only beget more questions than answers, and the collections of his current series throw him headlong into a big, messy crossover in the second trade. That’s not really an ideal situation, but it’s what’s there.

Though hey, points for the digital team for once again noticing a good marketing opportunity and plugging Constantine into the first issue of Injustice: Year Three. Again, the more ideal thing would be to have something with less baggage, but adding the character to one of their biggest digital successes certainly can’t harm things.

INCOMING

A couple of things to look out for on this week’s FOC for both retailers and readers alike:

ODY C TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C is on the list this week for shipping in late November. The reason for the big gap? Fraction and Ward are opening the thing with an eight page fold out. They wanted it to be larger, but apparently they’re jutting up against the edge of what can be done. Anyway, if you’re interested in a psychedelic gender-swapped version of Homer’s Odyssey – or know of anyone who might be – make sure your orders are placed sooner rather than later. (Spoiler alert: this is going to be crazy and wonderful and why wouldn’t you want such a thing?)

toothclawl TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

Also: Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey’s Tooth and Claw #1 is on the list. 44 pages of stunning artwork, digging deep into an anthropomorphic fantasy world filled with magic and gods and all sorts of wonderful things. People who have read Astro City and things like Arrowsmith know that Busiek puts his all into his creator owned book, and the man’s imagination left unbridled is a sight to see. Ben Dewey’s art is some pretty next level stuff, and they’ve got the Eisner award winning Jordie Bellaire handling the colours – which means it will also be one of the best looking books on the stands at the beginning of November. Oh, and it’s just $2.99. A bargain!

***

TO BE CONTINUED…

And that will have to do it for this week. Real Thanksgiving is happening this weekend in Canada, wherein we celebrate the fact that an explorer didn’t freeze to death. Seriously, that’s why we celebrate it. And what’s more Canadian than celebrating the fact that you haven’t already frozen to death?

Anyway, prep for the holiday and the various festivities means this is short and late. Such is life. Until next time.

0 Comments on TGI-FOC // Adventures in Marketing as of 10/11/2014 8:33:00 PM
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4. NYCC’14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel! Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!

2014 10 10 09.55.53 NYCC14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel!  Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!A diverse group of retailers await entry into the exclusive event!

Friday morning, Marvel hosted an exclusive event for retailers, announcing and teasing a variety of titles and projects.

 NYCC14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel!  Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!
On the panel:

  • Dan Buckley
  • David Gabriel
  • Alel Alonso
  • Tom Brevoort
  • Micke Marts
  • C. B. Cebulski
  • Nick Lowe
  • Mark Paniccia
  • Sana Amanat
  • Janine Schafer

After all cellphones were extinguished, an Ant-Man trailer was screened. It opens with a voice over from Hank Pym, then switches to Times Square, as Ant-Man tries to escape via insect.

After that, the audience saw a teaser for The Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon, featuring Rocket blowing things up.

This was followed by the intro to “Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop”, a one-hour special which will air on ABC on November 4, in the Agents of SHIELD timeslot.

Then we watched the Avengers trailer, as the boys try to lift Thor’s hammer. Utlron crashes the party, Manhattan becomes Metropolis, Tony fights the Hulk a la World War Hulk, and Stark Industry lawyers commit hari kari in anticipation of the the $1 Trillion class action lawsuit soon to be filed. (Okay, I made up that last part. But after the Battle of Midtown, with an estimated $160 Billion in damages, Tony might want to build his next mansion on Deimos.)

There were no teasers for the Netflix properties, as Marvel will be announcing that later at another panel.

Next up: comics!
Spider-Man #1: 650,000 copies
Rocket Raccoon #1: 320,000 copies
Thor #1: “a record for any Thor title”

The new Thor is fairly long term, running through Secret Wars and beyond.

Axis #1 was discussed. Tom Brevoort explained that the immediate launch of an event after a previous event was dictated by the storyline, and how what was to be a smaller arc in the Avengers titles expanded into something involving the entire Marvel universe.

If you blinked, you missed the $500 boxed set of Marvel’s 75th anniversary. It actuaqlly sold out before it shipped from Diamond, so Marvel will be producing another similar set soon.

January sees the “return of the jedi” to Marvel Comics. Mark Waid will be among the numerous creators. Marvel teased an Alex Ross re-creation of the first cover, and there will be a triptych variant of the first issues, from Skottie Young. (In order: Princess Leia, Star Wars, Darth Vader)

Spider-Verse kicks into high gear with Amazing Spider-Man #9. Spider-Gwen will have an ongoing series, produced by Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi. (Awesome cover!)

Inhumans are reaching their 50th anniversary, and Marvel will be diversifying an already diverse title, adding new, young characters.

The changes on “All-New Captain America” (Capt. Samerica?) will also run through Secret Wars.

“Superior Iron Man” was teased as a more narcissistic personality. (Dark Iron Man?)

Secret Wars (teased with a massive fustercluck slobberknocker cover of heroes fighting themselves) is scheduled to hit May 2015.

Marvel did not take questions from the audience, but did select a few via twitter, controlling what was advertised as “a no-holds barred Q&A”.  Overall, the audience was pleased with what Marvel is publishing, and the panelists were approachable afterwards for additional questioning.  (I was able to engage Axel Alonso over the dearth of beginning reader comics from Marvel.)

David Gabriel ended the presentation with two slides which were photographed. He had no further comment, but encouraged rampant speculation:

2014 10 10 10.48.27 NYCC14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel!  Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!The End Is Four Ever

 NYCC14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel!  Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!No More Mutants

My instant reaction?
Disney Studios is not happy with Fox.
(Myself, I would not be surprised if we Marvel fold the X-Men titles under the Avengers brand.)

2 Comments on NYCC’14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel! Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!, last added: 10/12/2014
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5. Lightning doesn’t strike twice with Future’s End

batman butt selfie Lightning doesnt strike twice with Futures End

September is Big Event month at DC Comics, and they crushed it this September as they usually do with their super lenticular covered Future’s End event which saw stand-alone stories set five years in the future of the DCU. These “random future” events usually disappoint me as I expect to see the Flash living with is brother in law and their two kids, and Poison Ivy running a plant shop, but then, that’s me. Anyway, Multiversity talked to a bunch of retailers about how the event did compared to last year’s Villain’s month which was allocated and ignited a frenzy as they say. Most retailers I’ve talked to say it was okay but not great and the Multiversity survey yielded similar thoughts. It is a sad time when a Batman butt selfie only does okay but these are the times we live in.

They followed up this piece with expanded interviews with retailers and there are quite a few interesting statements from Ralph DiBernardo of Jetpack Comics, Steve Anderson, of Third Eye Comics, Patrick Brower of Challengers and Gary Dills of Laughing Ogre Comics. I won’t excerpt their comments so just go read the whole thing.

The ongoing softness of stunts and events and growing reliance on variant covers is sure to ignite a new round of “Is the era of the event over?” tittle tattle. People have been saying this for about a decade and events are still here. But the “new reader” seems to be less interested in them. After all Saga sells like cray and has no events, spin-offs or tie-ins.

That said, I imagine some day there will be a Saga-Sex Criminal crossover and a whole new cohort will fall in love with the event and the cycle shall begin anew.

6 Comments on Lightning doesn’t strike twice with Future’s End, last added: 10/9/2014
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6. Wednesday Pulse: The Fluctuating Prices of Batman

If you’re picking up Batman #35 this week, do yourself a favour and check out the price point. See that $4.99 price sticker? Originally solicited at the regular $3.99 price, DC sent an e-mail to retailers last week telling them that the price of Batman #35-37 would be pumped up to the $4.99 mark in order to account for additional story pages (surprise: Kelley Jones is back!).

batman35cover Wednesday Pulse: The Fluctuating Prices of Batman

This series has been no stranger to the occasional price bump, with four of the twelve Zero Year issues clocking in at prices equal to or above the $4.99 price point (issue #24 ran a stunning $6.99), and so DC’s choice to pump up the price in the face of extra content shouldn’t come as a surprise. The problem, was this: retailers (and the creative team) were informed of this change on September 30th, whereas the book was sent to press in and around September 15th, the final day retailers had to send in orders. In essence, the company waited a full 15 days after retailers sent in their final numbers to let them know that they were about to charge 20% more for a book they were contractually obligated to purchase.

A few notes: when these changes happen after solicitations have gone out, the product being offered does become returnable, which is good. If I want to return every issue I have left unsold of Batman #35, I can absolutely do that… eventually. I’ve been working in the industry for 8 years, and I still can’t quite grasp the process, but that’s probably because operating in Canada plies a whole ‘nother set of hoops to jump through.

Second: after hearing about this price jump, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo approached the company and implored them to lower the price back to $3.99. The company was receptive to this, and announced yesterday that they would only be charging $3.99 for issues #36 and 37, which is cool. The problem is this: enacting price jumps after information has gone out is not a thing that should happen. I understand the realities of this business sometimes require a bit of adjustment, and that retroactively a creative team and editor will decide that things needs more space to breathe. Letting retailers know after committing to product? That’s a pretty crap thing to do. It certainly isn’t business busting, but it’s a reminder about how terrible the contracts retailers sign in order to get comics are. Technically, Marvel or DC could announce tomorrow that all of their books are going to jump a dollar, effective immediately. All of this product would be made returnable eventually, but in the meantime, somewhere, there are comic shops that are either just starting or are currently, for whatever reason, operating by the skin of their teeth. They purchase product using a strict budget, because if they don’t, there’s going to be trouble. Imagine learning that a large chunk of your books were suddenly going to be 20-25% more expensive immediately, with no time to adjust. That’s going to be quite a nightmare. But what are you going to do? Not get Batman in your store? Pff. Sure. Let’s see how that goes down for you.

Now ply that to a smaller scale and think about customers. There are a lot of people out there living by the skin of their teeth. They buy comics as a means for escape, but they only have a set amount of money. I know back when I first started picking up comics from a file, I kept a list of 20 books a month, because that’s all I could afford. Some can’t quite do that. Now imagine all of your books increasing significantly overnight. I know that this happens quite often, that Marvel’s across the board policy of $3.99 comics have caused problems for a few people, and that DC’s $3.99 Septembers are no help either. While I often advocate the fact that people will pay $3.99 or $4.99 for their superhero books without blinking (and I have the sales data to back this up), I know that there are those out there for whom the idea of spending that much on a title is insanity. The unfortunate thing for both customers and retailers is this: your budget problems don’t really amount to much when it comes to overall sales.

While a $4.99 comic might have me losing one or two customers, I still have more than enough people for whom that jump is not a deal breaker. In the case of Batman, over the course of Zero Year, I lost a single customer due to the various jumps in price, while all others gladly made purchases. My loss incurred was matched ten-fold by the extra money the price increase nabbed me. The same goes for the industry at large – which is why from a purely business standpoint, DC is crazy for leaving money on the table and dropping the price of the next two issues of Batman. That said, I do have to applaud the company for doing the human thing and keeping the title at $3.99. While it leaves a stack of money on the table, it is greatly appreciated by myself, and many others.

It seems weird to try and thank a company who caused the problem that they are fixing, but let’s be honest: if this goes without remark, they’re going to get the wrong message. They’re going to look at how money is spent, and opt for the quick buck over something more sustainable. So DC? Thanks for not being 100% a dick. Despite what last week’s comics might have suggested.

grayson3 4 668x1028 Wednesday Pulse: The Fluctuating Prices of Batman

from Grayson #3

But we’ll talk about that bit of business later.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

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7. The Retailer’s View // Speculative Non-Fiction

Death of Wolverine 3 Cover 198x300 The Retailers View // Speculative Non Fiction

The Death of Wolverine has gone over exceedingly well – or at least it has in my shop. Putting aside sales numbers (which were apparently great), the event has garnered quite a bit of attention in the medium and the shop in general. After putting a few copies in the window, we get a steady flow of people who either haven’t read comics or haven’t read comics in years walking into the store, wondering what’s going on – and as any retailer will tell you, getting people through the door is often half the battle. Local news affiliates stopped by the store to interview me about the Wolverine statue that folks are pushing to erect in the city in the wake of the runt’s impending death, which has garnered a few more drop ins. And a bonus? The story has been pretty great and has featured quite a bit of reader retention. I mean, the first three issues could have been terrible, and a certain amount of people would have stuck out to the bitter end, but quality books are far easier to sell, and ease is always appreciated. In the end, I should have no problem burning through the hefty order I placed, which is a calming notion. Unfortunately, the whole thing seems to have awakened more speculators, which is really sticking in my craw.

First things first: I would never begrudge a person who wants to make money off of their comic purchases. Doing so would be blindingly hypocritical coming from a man who puts food in his mouth by doing the same thing on a bulk-purchase scale. If you want to buy several copies of Harley Quinn a month and sell a few of them on the internet for a few extra scheckles, go right ahead! Go forth and reap those rewards. My problem comes up when the speculative market starts to overwhelm the reading market, creating shuddering blips in supply and demand that end up distorting the value of comics, perceived or otherwise. That’s when things get dangerous, and we’re getting closer and closer to the tipping point with each and every event these days.

When most people think of speculation, they think of the decadent excess of the 90s, when retailers were purchasing comics by the pallet and customers were buying them buy the case. Despite the fact that the industry was drowning in product, there was the idea that certain comics were going to be worth money, based off of past performance. Pouncing on this, comic companies did everything and anything they could do to get some quick, easy money. Multiple covers were produced, holograms and foil and glow-in-the-dark inks were introduced into the printing process, and everyone generally went crazy manufacturing inflated demand for a large supply, never stopping to scale back and look at the quality and contents of what was being sold. In the end, the basic retail forces of proper supply and demand reasserted themselves. Things crashed, and crashed hard.

X Force 1 poly 186x300 The Retailers View // Speculative Non Fiction

You can find these everywhere. One is watching you right now. Another phones you weekly, but never speaks.

Our current market is a reflection of what happened in the nineties, both in terms of its’ current shape, and the effect that speculation is having on it today. While I feel as though the quality of the product has never been higher in terms of storytelling and paper stock, quantities are nowhere near what the industry was shifting even just a decades ago. Some of that is due to the general attrition that has come to once strong mediums like radio, television, music and movies, but a good deal of it emerged from the sense of worth that comics have been stuck with since the speculative bubble popped. Not only were people purchasing comics by the handful expecting to make a mint, people were buying $2 comics for wildly inflated prices. Both parties have been unhappy to learn that their investments have largely not paid off. Every single day, I get at least one call from someone hoping to unload a collection of “really old comics” on me for stacks of cash, and almost every single day, I have to inform said parties that their piles of comics are worth next to nothing. Whether I’m telling them that they won’t see a large return on their bulk purchase, or that they spent $20 on a book that is only worth cover price, the fact remains: I am telling them that their comics are worthless. Most eventually take that bit of information and simplify it to “comics are worthless”. A person with that idea floating around in their head certainly isn’t predisposed to discovering or rediscovering the medium – and that’s a huge problem that the boom left the current industry with.

Compounding this is the fact that bulk speculation still occurs today. There are still people out there buying piles of The Walking Dead and Harley Quinn in hopes that they will be turning a profit on said books in the near or far future. Hell, there are retailers who purchase copies of books and deliberately short stack the shelves and keep stacks of books in their back room, all in the hopes of getting more cash at a later date. While I can’t really blame anyone for doing this, or making money off of a book when demand is tight and supply is high, it always puts a deep dark pit in my stomach. Playing with or deliberately creating blips in supply or manufacturing and manipulating demand never ends well. It’s dynamite in the short term, but it can not be relied upon in the long term, and it is often irreparably damaging. You can take a look at any economy that has toyed with building and manipulating supply and demand for profit and see the effects. The short term is always wonderful, but the long term? The long term is often nightmarish. And sure, everyone and everything can and often will recover, but not without incurring loss. The comic industry has been through such a period once. It’s threatening to do it again, as multiple covers and gimmicks sweep through the culture again, everyone searching for the quick dollar and the easy sell.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m not a part of this: I ordered far more Death of Wolverine than I could sell to readers. I did this, because I knew that speculators would want to get their hands on some copies, and that some would want multiples. I knew that these same speculators would look at the variants offered, and place down extra money to procure them. I increased my orders because I knew that ordering less would leave my readers high and dry. They’d be waiting for second printings while other people slid their copies in bags, never intending to read them or return to the store. I would damage my relationship with my regular customers for those with temporary deep pockets. In such a situation, I am damned if I do place a big order, because I’m enabling something that will clearly not end well, or I am damned if I don’t, because my regular customers will suffer. In the end, I try to do my best to make sure that my regulars are served, and leave the rest to be what it will be. That’s all I really can do.

Now, to really illustrate my outlook on this, I want to share with you a recent encounter I had at the store. A man walked in, looking to purchase any and all of the Death of Wolverine #1 variants that we had. One of everything. I gladly did this, and offered him a discount, because he was dropping a sizeable wad of cash on what was essentially the same book reprinted however-many-times-over. Four weeks later, the man returns to buy all of the Death of Wolverine #3 variants. A note: he did not come to the store to grab our #2s. He was just hitting the store as it was the most convenient place for him at the moment. After purchasing the books, he asked if there was a way we could offer him a discount of some kind for whenever he came through the door. I asked if he would be interested in grabbing issue four and it’s various covers from us. He said he didn’t know, because he wasn’t sure where he’d be. I let him know that we give discounts to people who subscribe to or pre-order certain series, because it helps us know what to order. He then said, (and this is word for word), “So even though I’ve spent more in your store in one month than some of these guys spend all year, you won’t give me a discount?”

3Months to Die Wolverine 8 12 300x89 The Retailers View // Speculative Non Fiction

More like “rad-mantium”, amirate?

Now, I never said I wouldn’t give him a discount, but at that point, his voice was getting sharp and irritated, and I was in no mood. He was essentially asking me what I valued more: his admittedly arbitrary patronage (a further note: I had never seen this man before in my eight years of working at the store) or someone who came in week after week, month after month, and kept us in business. I kindly informed him that discounts were reserved for regular customers, at which point, he stormed out of the establishment. I doubt I will see him again. That said, I really doubt I was going to see him before or after October 15th when the final issue hit, and he purchased that last of the run. At the end of the day, I’m not losing sleep over that one – and I have the added bonus that the copies he was going to procure will probably end up in the hands of someone who will come back.

In the end, that’s all a store can do. People will always come in and do as they will – the only thing you can control is the way you act and react to them. As a retailer, you will never be able to stop speculation – but you can do everything in your power to temper the effects. Make sure that above all else, you are serving your regulars, and that you have the product and mindfulness to keep pushing to make more people come into and return to your store. The easiest way to do this? Don’t speculate yourself. Purchase to match demand as well as you can, and when you don’t, resist the urge to mark up your final copies. There’s a reason why the comic companies priced the comic the way they did: that’s what they believe the contents within are worth. $3, $3.50, $4… that’s the real monetary worth of a comic, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Be good in your ordering, be great to your customers, and reward those who are good to you in return. If enough retailers do this, the industry shouldn’t have trouble moving forward.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

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8. Go FOC Yourself // The Latest

Welcome to Go FOC Yourself, a weekly column at The Beat about comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of the retail process that don’t merit a full column. This week, I’ve been diving through the back issues in our overstock and I have caught a little space madness. This will turn out quite well.

SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #9

unchained superman 226x300 Go FOC Yourself // The Latest

For the course of this book’s entire run, I’ve been typing “Superman Unchined”, which is a thing that I want to seen drawn for reasons. You definitely needed to know that, especially given my propensity for grammatical errors.

This week’s final order cut off has the last issue of Superman Unchained, and now I can set fire my feelings of disappointment and send the whole thing off to sea. While Scott Snyder and Jim Lee put together a phenomenal book, DC could have done so much more with this series. So, so much more.

The series launched in June last year with an eye to become the flagship Superman title as the Man of Steel movie hit the theatres. A new ongoing featuring white hot creator Scott Snyder and artist powerhouse Jim Lee? There was almost no way DC could screw up this marketing opportunity. And yet.

Starting with the baffling Unchained moniker, the entire run of this series runs like “how to not sell a series” seminar. Launching a new Superman book along with the movie? Smart. Doing so without the easy cash in of the unused Man of Steel series title? A little foolish. Then there was the decision to attach a creative team whose time was heavily taxed, resulting in heavy delays. While seeing the names Scott Snyder and Jim Lee on a Superman book definitely moved a few copies, the shipping schedule did more harm than good. Add to that the fact that this was nothing more than a mini-series disguised as an ongoing, and things get a bit dicier.

There are two things a series needs to have going for it in order to sell: it has to be regular, and it has to be ongoing. The characters and creative team involved certainly matter to a great extent, but all is for naught if a series doesn’t ship on time, or if it has a pre-announced end point. Retailers and fans alike will react negatively to books with pre-set end dates and late shipping books.. If a series manages to combine both qualifiers, it’s doubly bad. Do you know where a series by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee should be on the sales charts? Name power alone says it should be destroying Batman, let alone a launch tied in with a movie watched by millions of people. In practice, it moves a little over half the copies that Batman does. Is that where Jim Lee should be on the stands? Most certainly not – but you can’t shrug off the effects of a late shipping book. Late shipping books tell the reader that they are going to have to wait for content – and if the word “wait” is floating around in their heads, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump over to “I might as well wait until this comes out in collection”. Why tease yourself with content once every… three months? Why not wait to get the whole story?

This reaction is always compounded when a series is only set to run a certain amount of issues. DC curtailed a lot of this by leaving the status of this series deliberately vague. History stated that if Jim Lee was attached as an artist, the consecutive run wouldn’t be a long one, owing to his general production pace, and the demands placed on him as one of the higher ups in DC – but the question remained: would the series continue with different creative components? Would Unchained become a strange boutique book for big creators, or would it go the Astonishing X-Men route, tossing on creative team after creative team until the whole thing lost steam and came to a halt? The answer turned out to be “retroactive mini-series” which is the worst of all possible outcomes. While a different creative team is never ideal, it does elongate the span of time a retailer can sell a book – because make no mistake: a book might be popular when it is coming out, but sales (especially back issue sales) take a steep nosedive the moment that a final issue hits the shelves. Why? Well, if the series has ended, and the momentum has stopped, why not wait for a collection? There’s no impetis to go forward, no reason to collect. And so, a book like this bleeds away 75% of its sales over the course of it’s 9 issue run, both a success (because it always sold enough) and a failure (because it could have been so much more). And in the course of it’s run, it also damaged the idea of a Superman series selling in the current market. Have you seen the numbers for the Geoff Johns/John Romita Jr. run? Pitiful, considering the players involved, and I suspect it has a direct correlation to the fact that DC couldn’t properly execute a big launch tied to a movie, with two of the company’s biggest creators and a new number one. Seriously, how do you mess that up?

RELATED

Speaking of the whole “finite series” stigma, have you ever noticed how Marvel generally doesn’t tell people when something has reached the end of it’s run? For the most part, they wait to let people know about the last issue in a series until after a retailer places their final orders for the final issue. In this way, they bypass a bit of the “finite series” stigma, and can squeeze a few extra sales out of a dead series. It’s short term thinking at it’s worst, and probably effects titles like Loki and Hulk when they disappear for a few months without much in the way of explanation. (Yes, I know both series were put on hold while the Original Sin series ran, but you had to be the type who pays attention to the actual comics and the Comics Internet, and a good chunk of reatilers do not do that. So.)

ON ITS AXIS

axis1covercheung 70690 199x300 Go FOC Yourself // The Latest

art by Jim Cheung

This has already passed the point of being on the final order cut-off, but the heft of the event demands a little bit of comment: I breezed through the copy of AXIS #1 that Marvel provided about a week back, and noticed a few interesting things. One: the file was called Days of Future Now, which I would guess was the working title for the storyline. Two: the story does rely heavily on the events that have taken place in Uncanny Avengers, so much so that it could almost function as a continuation of that series. The recap page does take care of the bigger plot points that need to be addressed, but if you’re the type to require more of a complete experience, I would definitely hazard on the side of grabbing the Road to AXIS issues of Uncanny Avengers – and if you’re the really plot sensitive type, I’d get the whole damn series. A note: with the right attitude, you can read AXIS just fine without complication – in fact, the majority of folks predisposed to this kind of story will and love it. That said, there are more than a few delicate flowers out there who will need to start grabbing copies now. If you’re a retailer and know the type, make sure you have back issues at the ready. If you’re a customer, and feel the itch, start looking now before someone else does.

FOC PICK OF THE WEEK // RASPUTIN #1

STK652997 197x300 Go FOC Yourself // The Latest

Russia’s famous love machine.

So many reasons to pick up this series. I started following Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo when they started Proof together, and both have grown considerably in that time. Alex is now a New York Times best selling author, and Riley has gone on to produce some stunning works, from creator owned book like Green Wake, all the way to the trippy drug sequences in the later issues of Daken: Dark Wolverine.

This series digs right into the heart of all the weird Russian history stuff that I loved as a kid – only this is comics, so things get strange pretty fast. Rasputin by way of dark magic and occasional bears. This is something you need.

TO BE CONTINUED…

And that’s where things end for this week. Next time, the first batch of November releases will hit the sheets, and we’ll go through all of that then. And hey, maybe I’ll get around to changing the title of this series. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’m taking suggestions, BTW.

Stay tuned for Monday when my Retailer’s View series resumes with an update on how The Death of Wolverine is selling and the preliminary results of speculators flocking to the series. Until then, you can check out my column on events in general, and stress the hell out.

 

7 Comments on Go FOC Yourself // The Latest, last added: 10/5/2014
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9. Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley Quinn

Sex and Violence 2 Cover Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley Quinn

Everyone should  “Listen to JImmy” Palmiotti that is. The veteran writer, artist editor and publisher is one of the most knowledgeable comics people out there.  With his collaborators from Paperfilms, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner, he’s made a small publishing enterprise out of kickstarting a series of graphic novels based on the European album format. The seventh, Sex and Violence  Vol. II is ending in a few days and we advise you to get in on the Amanda Conner/Dave Johnson action as soon as possible — the books will not be sold in any other way. We talked to Palmiotti a few months ago when he was Kickstarting the SF tale Denver and got his overall thoughts on using Kickstarter as a platform. This time out we talk about the storytelling process,finding artists and also find out how Harley Quinn, which he co-writes with Amanda Conner, has become one of DC’s bestselling titles, with a huge female fan base. 

The Beat: Sex and Violence is billed as stories of “crime, lust, and redemption.” Are  these stories that you carried around for a while or did you sit down to think of  them just for this volume? 

3047913 jimmy3 12 300x281 Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley Quinn

Photo by Seth Kushner

Palmiotti: I can’t speak for Justin, but I have had the FILTER story idea for a while and was  at one point going to pitch it as a series, but never got around to it. I reworked  it so it can be enjoyed as a single story with a beginning and an end. The other  short story was something I came up with and thought it might fit perfectly into  the book. A lot of the time story ideas hit me and I keep files on them, waiting for  the right time or opportunity to place them. I have another story that I want to do  and hope we can get to a volume 3 of this series.

The Beat: I know Justin Gray wrote one of the stories, but can you tell us a little about  each of the three stories, and what interested you enough in your two to tell the  tale?

Palmiotti: Justin’s is called RED DOG ARMY and its based on actual history. Hitler  launched a full-scale invasion on Russia called Operation Barabossa, and Stalin,  reacting to this, authorized a special unit to train dogs as anti-tank weapons, sort  of a suicide dog squad. It’s a real interesting setting to tell a story and beautifully  illustrated by Rafa Garres whom we worked a number of time with on Jonah Hex.  The next story is called DADDY ISSUES and is about a mother and daughter  living in a trailer park dealing with the men in their lives. Its got a very tales from  the crypt feel but works perfectly here. Romina Moranelli illustrated it and it’s  just beautiful. The last story is called FILTER and it’s a look back on a killer’s life  and the things he has done to get to where he is today. It’s dark and cruel and  will stay with you for a while, I think. Vanesa R. Del Ray illustrates that story, an  art student I met a couple of years ago that is making a name for herself all over  now. All three stories work together pretty nicely.

The Beat: Your two stories sounds like they have fairly unsympathetic protagonists,  which I know can be a challenge. How do you make dark characters like this  compelling enough for the reader to want to follow along?

Palmiotti: Well, with Daddy Issues, you sort of understand what they are going through, but  in the end, these are killers and you should be scared to be around them. With  Filter, I set out to give the reader an understanding of how someone goes from  bad to worse. The interesting aspect of the story is there is a level or redemption  to the character that makes him a bit more sympathetic. I think the trick is to  humanize the situation into something we can relate to so we understand the  extreme reaction the character takes. Honestly, all of these characters are scary  on their own level.

The Beat: How do you find artists for these? You’ve said it’s like casting, and as a  sometimes editor, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes you think of an  element of a comics story and an artist just pops into your head with just the  qualities that will make it work. Do you keep a physical or mental folder of artists  you want to work with?

Palmiotti: I actually meet most of them at conventions. They come by and show me  their work and I can feel the enthusiasm. I keep a file and also give them my  contact and hope they follow through and we chat again. The people that I end  up working with are the ones that stay after me and keep sending their latest  samples. I try to stay up as well on who is new and exciting in the field best I  can. I buy just about every new book that comes out, which my local retailer,  Emerald City loves. The casting thing is a perfect way of explaining what I do for  each story, It’s one of the most important parts of the job. I always say the Marvel  Knights gig was all about casting the right people with the right characters. The  magic happens after that.

The Beat: Do you ever write a story for a specific artist?

Palmiotti: All of the time. All three of the stories in Sex and Violence are catered to the  artist. I may have an idea, but once I know who the artist is going to be, I change  it to fit their style. In the case of All Star Western and Jonah Hex, we always  wrote for the artist. I think that’s how we got their best work. Issue 34 of All Star  was made for Darwyn Cooke and once we knew G.I.Zombie was going to be  Scott Hampton, the book took a creepier, grounded tone. I didn’t want to fight  against his style. I also think the work is better for it.

The Beat: I talked with you a few months ago for your Denver Kickstarter and it  sounds like you really have crowdfunding down to a science.   Were there any tweaks to the model this time?

Palmiotti: Yes, I did a few after the Denver Campaign. The first thing I did is stop  offering the expensive packages overseas because we felt the price was  too high to ask for the shipping and to be honest, a lot of the packages got  lost or damaged pretty bad. The next thing was limit the prints because we  felt there wasn’t as big a need for them this time, and last, since this is a  follow up of a series of books, we went back to press and reprinted the first  book with two brand new covers by Amanda Conner and Dave Johnson,  knowing a lot of people did not get the first one that might be backing the  new one.

The Beat: Your Kickstarter books seem to have a very European feel to them and  not just because you often use foreign artists. Is that part of the inspiration  for these books?

Palmiotti: It’s based on my love of European comics and artists. I grew up on Heavy  Metal and with that steady diet; it was bound to have its influence. I also  like to make the books mature audience books, again, a very European  thing. I feel I do a ton of all ages work for the mainstream, so we get to  unleash ourselves here and do whatever works for the story.

 Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley QuinnThe Beat: On another note, Harley Quinn has been a huge hit for DC and for the  Paperfilms crew. I saw you talking recently about the fact that it has a lot  of women readers. I know it’s all still anecdotal for DC but this audience  seems to be one that is really growing quickly. Can you talk about your  own experiences with that?

Palmiotti: Amanda and I have had a very busy year of conventions and signings and  the thing we noticed from working on the Harley book is that the majority  of the people coming up to us are females of all ages. We have only had  this happen once before and it was for the Painkiller Jane series. The cool  thing about this group is that we’ve had a large percentage telling us it’s  the first comic book they ever bought and thanking us for not weighing  down the title with continuity. They say they love that they can just pick up  an issue and enjoy it without going broke or feeling left out and confused  because they haven’t bought 15 other books. It’s something I am always  aware of on all my books because I’m one of those people that, if I feel  lost picking up a book, I never go back to it again.

What we are learning is that the traditional idea of done–in-one stories  not selling in comics just doesn’t apply to the new audience buying the  books, and believe me, most of that new audience are female. I think the problem right now is we have some people running the companies that just aren’t going out and trying new comics or interacting with the next wave of readers and keep pushing things the traditional way they did years ago. The retailers themselves are seeing this happening daily now and I feel it’s the reason Image comics will continue to grow and eventually outsell the big two, unless they start thinking outside the box and just make superheroes a PART of their publishing plan and not the entire thing and start looking at the different ways a superhero type of book can be done. Harley is one example , Hawkeye is another . The traditional graphics people associate comics with have been changing for years now and the market is embracing different looks and styles that are outside the house style and its pretty cool to see.

The thing that keeps me interested in comics is the prospect of new  ideas, new voices and especially new methods of applied technology and  connecting with the audience. It’s what keeps the Paperfilms crew and I  trying new things all the time. As an example, we had a soundtrack scored  on our last book DENVER and people loved it. That and the fact that  people can go to Paperfilms.com and get digital downloads of our books,  prints of Amanda’s work and copies directly from us is the next big for  creators these days. That thing is the connection between the creator and  the fan; something bigger companies have no real interest in promoting.  This is also happening in all media. Things are changing fast, and for me,  all for the better.

The Beat: You’ve made your Kickstarters a real cottage industry, What are your  plans going forward? How many a year do you foresee doing and how long  are you going to keep at it?

Palmiotti: I will keep making Kickstarters for as long as we have an audience for  them. The people that back our Kickstarters are a lot of repeat customers  and we are growing that fan base with every project. Our plans going  forward are to do more of them and take on less work that we just do to  pay the bills. Kickstarter has been a huge learning experience for us in so  many ways. Each project teaches us what the audience wants from us. We  look at the hard numbers, the comments and all the interaction and fine  tune each and every new project to be able to connect better with the fans.  We have only a few days left on SEX AND VIOLENCE VOL. 2 and after  this, we have another book ready to roll that is a western graphic novel,  something you would think we had enough of…but this one is different in a  number of ways and we are super excited to announce it in a few weeks.

5 Comments on Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley Quinn, last added: 9/22/2014
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10. The Retailer’s View: Eventful

In August, I went on vacation with my girlfriend (who is now my fiancée) and took some well deserved time away from the store and the world of comics in general. Being Mr. Manager for a shop and writing about comics on the internet doesn’t allow for a lot of extracurriculars, so stepping away for three weeks was a welcome change.

When I returned to the store a week ago, I was met with the sight of the first week’s worth of Future’s End books spilling from the shelves, and almost a longbox of The Death of Wolverine sitting in a box as overstock. Immediately, I felt my heart tighten. This sensation was exacerbated when the first customer of the day walked through the door, grabbed a handful of each lenticular and foil embossed cover and inquired as to what the investment value of the books would be. I smiled even as my veins filled with poison, and I told them what I tell everybody: if there was a science to making money off of comics, I would be a far richer man than the one you see today.

046.DCC .BstrGl.1.0 384x591 5390e24a6b24d7.98673751 194x300 The Retailers View: Eventful

SUDDENLY TIGERS

Let’s take a few steps back and give a little context for Future’s End and The Death of Wolverine. Given the fact that you’re reading an article about comic book retail on the internet, it’s probably safe to say you know the basics, so we’ll skip past the bits about the how’s and why’s of both series and go knee deep into the retail bits.

As detailed in my first column for this site, DC’s methods for this year’s round of lenticular covers were informed by last year’s madness. In an effort to bypass issues with supply not meeting demand, the company asked that retailers submit their final orders for the books at the end of May. For normal comics, the final order cut off for a book usually arrives three-and-a-half weeks before said issue will hit the shelves, allowing retailers to adjust numbers using relatively current data. Placing orders at the end of May meant extrapolating demand using a set of data that would be better utilized for books shipping in late June or July, which made things hard to balance. On top of that, there were a heap of other troubling things to deal with, such as:

  • Finding a balance between last year’s artificially high demand and this year’s guaranteed supply.
  • Guessing how the line would tie into the weekly shipping Future’s End series, and how that would or would not effect certain books in the line.
  • Trying to set numbers for titles that had yet to debut, such as Grayson.
  • Dealing with the late announcement of the creative teams for each title, and attempting to inform readers about the books that would and would not feature the book’s regular team.
  • Guessing what other retailers within driving distance would order and how it would effect short and long term demand.
  • Discovering some kind of alchemy that would tell me which customers would leave and arrive in the course of a quarter of the year, including the crap chute of “how many students from the nearby university will want to open up files and/or grab comics”.
  • Guessing whether or not the Booster Gold issue was the start of a new ongoing or mini-series or just a one shot.

All of this while dealing with the more regular considerations such as trending audience interest, spending budgets, and oh yeah, placing initial orders for books that were going to start shipping in July, which were solicited alongside them, and due on the same day.

The fact that I have yet to sell out of any of the new lenticular books is a minor miracle, especially considering the fact that I placed my bet on these covers selling only slightly better than the books would sell during a regular month. On the other hand, there are more than a few that I splurged on that didn’t quite ignite interest. Will I sell them all? Probably. The covers are still quite the draw, and will probably turn over regularly in the back issue bins – but for more than a few books, it will take more time than usual to turn my orders into a profit. Luckily, I’m running the kind of store that can weather a line of books taking a bit longer to sell than usual. I shudder to think what would happen to a store who couldn’t easily absorb such a stock. Even if they push through, their purchasing power for the upcoming Christmas season will be severely truncated, causing an ever expanding ripple effect due to a couple of bad hunches.

Death of Wolverine 3 Cover 198x300 The Retailers View: Eventful

Now, on the other side of things, there’s The Death of Wolverine. Instead of matching DC pound for pound with a bit of line-wide craziness, Marvel opted for the safer track: one big bet on one big event. The comparative risk between the two ventures couldn’t be more different. Over at DC, their event is a gamble that involves almost their entire regular superhero line. Over at Marvel, it’s a gamble that involves the death ($) of one of their most recognizable characters ($$). A decent order was going to be placed on the title regardless, but there were a few things that made this pill a little harder to swallow than most:

  • Marvel was going to ship the book weekly, which meant that proper order adjustments were going to be nearly impossible under the best of conditions.
  • The company was not soliciting the book under the best of conditions – which in this case meant all four issues were solicited early, and with a final order cut off date of July 14th – whole seven and a half weeks before the first issue would hit the stands.
  • The first issue carried with it no less than eight different variants, all requiring different order thresholds to hit – a logistical nightmare.

In the interim, the company didn’t make things any easier. In between the solicitation copy hitting the publication and final orders coming due, they dribbled out several changes to the line up, including foil embossed covers (only the first issue was going to carry that “feature”), along with a price jump “order what you want” Canadian variants (which feature the same covers as the original books with photoshopped CANADIAN features like our flag and the word “CANADA”) and a smattering of more qualified variants. Does your head ache yet? Oh, just you wait.

Death of Wolverine 3 Canada Variant 197x300 The Retailers View: Eventful

Ohhhhh, Canada.

Two of the variants on tap for issue one – the “Deadpool” and “Skottie Young” covers – required retailers to match All New X-Men #25 orders at 250% if they wanted to get them in. While I generally dislike all variant covers, qualifications like this always grind my gears. First, a retailer has to take a look at their numbers, and determine if this is a smart thing to do. Now, in this instance, All New X-Men #25 was a book that sold an estimated 63,827 copies, so for simplicities sake, let’s say there is a shop out there that ordered 64 copies of that book. Forgetting whether or not they sold through that many copies (because it doesn’t matter to Marvel or Diamond), that means they would have to order at least 160 copies to even qualify to get those covers. Will the money you bring in grabbing all of those extra copies match the money those special covers bring in?

Bonus questions: say you decide against beefing up your numbers. How many customers will you lose out on because they were looking for that specific cover? How many of those customers would have bought more than one copy of The Death of Wolverine? How many would have bought the whole run from you, but are now going to do so elsewhere? How many would have eventually set up a file at your shop? These are all crazy questions, but every retailer has them swirling in their head when they place these orders – and I haven’t even gotten to the really crazy parts yet.

In addition to the 250% covers, Marvel offered variants ranging from “1 for every 50” copies ordered, all the way to “1 for every 500” copies, so even if you could make those 250% numbers work with relative ease, they teased you with something even more unattainable. Dare you go for broke and claw up to 500 copies for your store? If you sell it, and a few of the other variants, will it offset the cost of unsold copies? Even if you attempt to stretch your fingers for this goal, and even if you sell those variants… is it really worth it in the long run? Couldn’t money spent on 500 copies of Wolverine – many of which will end up being remaindered somehow – be put to better use by bringing in a wider range of products? But again, if you don’t try and get that cherry variant, will you be losing out on big money? Can you really afford not to?

The final knife in Marvel’s game to sell a ton of this book came in the form of some bonus ordering incentives. This bit will be easier to show you as a picture than anything else. For issue one and four:

dow2 300x72 The Retailers View: Eventful

click to embiggen

And for issues two and three:

dow 300x72 The Retailers View: Eventful

click to embiggen

On the surface, it appears as though they’re helping you out. Want to try and get those crazy variants? We’ve made it a little easier on your wallet, champ. Congrats. Go nuts. Reality happens to be a bit darker than that though. As always, Marvel could give a crap about whether or not you’re selling their books. All they want to do is make sure you’re buying their books. You could purchase 500 copies and set fire to them all for all they care – once they have your money, they’re good.

Now full disclosure: my chain went for the gusto and ordered 500 copies. We took a look at all of the information at our hands, looked at what the books were going to cost us with Marvel’s extra discounts added to the mix, and worked out a system where the numbers worked for us. Given my own personal druthers, I would have gone more in the direction of one of Aaron Sorkin’s TV shows and make the principled stand. I would have ordered something that matched reader demand more than collector demand, but I manage a store that was built and funded by other hands, and at times, I end up serving other interests. I end up walking into the store and seeing a longbox worth of comics sitting in overstock. I also end up seeing a guy spend enough money on a small handful of the variants to offset our cost for the entire set of 500, so it all balances out, I guess. Where was I going with this? Ah yes.

Imagine you’re a retailer. What do you want to order? This goes for both events, by the way, DC’s Future’s End and Marvel’s Death of Wolverine. How do you place your orders? What things do you want to keep in the front of your mind? Do you want to expend the extra effort it takes to put together orders for an entire line of lenticular covers months in advance, or do you opt for the simple solution of ordering what you’d normally order? Do you become bothered by the idea that if you just do regular numbers, collectors might raid your supply and you won’t be left with enough copies to satisfy those who pop into your store every week and grab comics from the shelves? Do you bother adjusting your numbers in order to get variant editions, or do you just let things lie? Will you allow the promise of big money balloon your orders up? Do you make that gamble?

These are the questions that plague a retailer’s mind when they set about ordering your comics month in and month out. Not only are they dealing with variants and odd shipping schedules and order thresholds, but they’re doing so for hundreds of titles each and every month. Not all of them require the same amount of thought, but they all require a modicum of consideration – especially when you have to make sure you order within a budget. You can’t just do all the math for determining orders for an event book and call it a day, you have to consider what that order will do to the rest of your budget. You have to keep things on track so that they don’t spiral out of control – because while there isn’t a science to making money on comics, there’s a surefire way to lose it all: getting lost chasing big money instead of focusing on the actual money you have to spend.

12 Comments on The Retailer’s View: Eventful, last added: 9/17/2014
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11. Watch Comics by the Numbers with Brett Schenker and The Beat

This year at Baltimore Brett Schenker and I presented a panel called Comics by the Numbers Panel. Schenker is a political analyst and the author of perhaps the most cited post ever on The Beat, the much loved not at all controversial post Market Research Says 46.67% of Comic Fans are Female. The pane; was taped and you can watch (or probably better, listen) above. Depsite it being the first panel on Saturday there was a healthy audience of about 30-40 people, and the questions were really smart and engaged, which is the best you can ask on a panel.

Because you can’t see our slides, we’ve embedded them below.

This is an incredibly important topic for comics and all of pop culture, and I’m gald t be able to make this information available to all. For those who might want to confer further with Brett, his website is here, and he’s @graphicpolicy on Twitter.

1 Comments on Watch Comics by the Numbers with Brett Schenker and The Beat, last added: 9/13/2014
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12. Comics shop owner claims mention of rape room was met with a stern frown; female employee still fired

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Comics got a brand new he-said/she-said with the story of Jennifer Williams, who was employed by Harrison’s Comics in Salem, MA for all of four days before being fired. According to Harrison’s it was for performance issues. According to Williams, it’s because

she complained about a remote storage area being called “the rape room”

and the manager hugging her without her consent. The controversy played itself out over social media, as these things do, with Larry Harrison, the owner of the store, claiming he didn’t now know of the firing but saying if people wanted to know the real story, they should come to the store to hear it.


Williams has not been shy about telling her side of things, and launched a blog to tell her version of Harrison contacting her. Accoridng to Williams, after she tweeted about the rape room, upon com gin to work the next day she was blocked from entering. SHe also says that Harrison seemed less concerned with the fact that employees of his store would joke about a “rape room” with a new employee than about her firing and how it went down.

Harrison finally released a statement on Facebook, and a whole new story has emerged, one that involves a staff meeting, five witnesses, and a different new employee hearing “stat room” and thinking it meant “stat rape room” and being met with “The group trainer frowned at the employee who mentioned rape and sternly said “We do NOT have a rape room.” This was the last first and last time “a rape room” was ever mentioned in Harrison’s until Ms. Williams’ took to social media and we were put in the position of having to defend ourselves.

Anyway here’s the whole statement:

Dear Fellow Comic Lovers and Gaming Enthusiasts;

As you may have heard, there are allegations of sexual harassment and unfair termination against Harrison’s being circulated by a former employee on social media.

Harrison’s takes these allegations seriously and denies them all. We do not condone inflammatory, intolerant, sexist, racist or family-unfriendly language or behavior in any of our stores. We are committed to running an inclusive, family-friendly business.

The individual making the accusations, Ms. Williams, was terminated for documented, performance-based reasons only. This was explained to her at the time of her termination, when she was given full pay for her time at Harrison’s. Her employment was terminated in a professional, impartial manner in the presence of another employee.

There is certainly no “rape room” at Harrison’s Comics (or anywhere, we hope!). Unfortunately, because this repulsive term has been so heavily publicized in connection with our stores, we feel compelled to explain how it originated:

Ms Williams was hired on a 30-day trial basis, as were five other employees she was being trained with. Training includes a tour of the store, including a room we call the “statue room.”

If you’ve been in our Salem store, you know we have many statues displayed in locked cases throughout the store. They are displayed behind glass because statues are fragile, valuable collectibles that can easily break if improperly handled.

The boxes these statues come in are specifically designed to protect them, so the boxes are stored in the “statue room,” a practice that’s been in place for at least ten years. When a buyer purchases a statue, an employee goes to the statue room, finds that statue’s box, and repacks it for safe travel to its new home.

While the group of trainee employees were being shown the room it was referred to only as the “statue room” or the “stat room” for short. This prompted one of the new trainees (not Ms. Williams) to question “Stat, like stat rape?” The group trainer frowned at the employee who mentioned rape and sternly said “We do NOT have a rape room.” This was the last first and last time “a rape room” was ever mentioned in Harrison’s until Ms. Williams’ took to social media and we were put in the position of having to defend ourselves.

I have been a comic store owner for 21 years and this is deeply disturbing to me. If anything like Ms. Williams described did occur here, the employee responsible would be terminated immediately. I ask that people look at the facts before concluding I am guilty. I have 9 female employees and 10 male employees presently working in my stores. The previous manager of our flagship Salem store is a woman, and she managed it for two years before leaving to open her own store.

We have an exemplary reputation in Salem, Massachusetts and the comic and gaming community as a professional, respectful, fair and welcoming workplace. We appreciate the support of those who know and defended us against these allegations while others leaped to judgment. We wish Ms. Williams the best in her future endeavors.

Larry Harrison

Now this being Facebook, there are many different opinions in the comments. Many past customers (mostly women) are not at all surprised by Williams’ allegations and there are a lot of stories that paint a picture of the store as being a real Android’s Dungeon. Other shoppers, mostly male, think it’s fine.

Now, as far as he said and she said goes, I would like to point out some of the fascinating comments here, like this one from a Marie Loging:

It’s between the owner and the ex employee. I still intend to shop there. Think it was a bad idea to publish this though. Makes the store look bad. I hope if it happened for real, that there is physical proof and I hope the store had a security camera there to cover their side. If she has sex in that room, it could have been mutual, and is just claiming it rape because a) got fired or b) because it was a one time thing and she wanted more


WHOA WHAT THE FUCK. This person has fabricated a whole sex act and security cameras out of the incident? This is how telephone works.

A few more:

Kain Mcgreed — Just look how the Feminist eat this up.

Renee Mallett — I was sad to see this story about the store. But, honestly, was not surprised. I lived in the North Shore area when I was about 18 and the shop wasn’t even it’s own stand alone store yet. It was my go-to store for several years and I watched it grow into one of the best comic stores I’ve been to anywhere. I got a LOT of comments from employees about how I looked and what I wore back when I was younger. It’s been a long time since I was a customer of the Salem store (I did frequent the Manchester location with my kids over the past few years and was never treated with anything but the greatest respect and courtesy) but if the culture today at the Salem store is ANYTHING like it was back in my day I can totally see this kind of comment being said.

Kathryn Pickett — Larry, as someone who spent years as a faithful patron of your store, I am sorry to inform you that the language and attitude of your employees was frequently NOT family friendly, with cursing, explicit sexual comments (sometimes directed at me, when I was underage) and even derision concerning my purchase choices.

I have loved your store and had many wonderful positive experiences there, but the negative experiences I lived through as a customer make these allegations completely plausible to me. I am personally familiar with some of your current and former employees, and find Ms. Williams’ account much more likely than your own above.

If you are truly trying to make your business the kind of place described in your above statement, let this serve as a wake-up call. It is not there. It hasn’t been there. Denying this is a problem doesn’t do a thing to convince me as I know through first hand experience that it IS a problem. Until you accept that there may be an actual issue with the culture and attitude of some of your employees and take measures to rectify, you are going to lose business and suffer bad publicity. That’s not a threat, it’s simply fact.


There seems to be a fundamental ignorance among those blaming Williams for being a disgruntled ex-employee: she made the claims of the rape room BEFORE SHE WAS FiRED. The sequence of events was that she allegedly heard the comment, complained about it, and even tweeted it, and then showed up for work the next day and was barred from the store. The cause and effect here are entirely with Williams’ chain of events.

And if you’re going to go with a chain of evidence, the many real customers at Harrison’s who think there is a real problem there indicate that where there’s smoke, there may very well be fire.

Harrison’s has a PR disaster on their hands obviously, and waiting five days to make a statement hasn’t helped matters any. And as armchair sleuth Gene Ha wrote, according to Massachusetts employment laws, they may have a king sized legal headache, as well:

Yep, that’s the key. In Massachusetts any business with 6+ employees has to create and follow a sexual harassment policy. [Note: I'm a comic book artist not a lawyer, yadda yadda]

What happened could be considered a “hostile work environment.” From the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Guidelines” website:

In some circumstances, a hostile environment may be established based on a single incident, due to its severity, despite the fact that the conduct is not frequent or repetitive. Moreover, purely verbal conduct, without a physical component, may be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. However, minor, isolated conduct does not constitute sexual harassment.

The rape joke and the embrace were bad but not a big liability yet for the shop.

What Harrison’s owner should have done is talk to the manager and make sure that he doesn’t continue being a jerk and that he can’t retaliate. If they’d done that then there would have been no problems. Got that, everyone? The joke wasn’t the big problem.

Instead, after scheduling her for more hours the shop tells her she’s fired when she reports back for work. More from the MA government website:

Employers should instruct recipients of sexual harassment complaints to inform complainants and alleged perpetrators that they will:
*keep the complaint confidential to the extent practicable under the circumstances;
*conduct a prompt, neutral investigation into the allegations; and
*not tolerate any form of retaliation against the complainant for having complained of sexual harassment.

Yep, it looks like they screwed up every element of their legally required response. More from the MA gov on what Harrison’s was supposed to do:

Generally, remedial action consists of the following:
*promptly halting any ongoing harassment;
*taking prompt, appropriate disciplinary action against the harasser;
*taking effective actions to prevent the recurrence of harassment, including conducting a sexual harassment training where appropriate, and
*making the complainant whole by restoring any lost employment benefits or opportunities.

There’s a saying: it’s not the crime it’s the coverup… that’s the bigger crime.


More to come, I’m sure.

16 Comments on Comics shop owner claims mention of rape room was met with a stern frown; female employee still fired, last added: 9/7/2014
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13. Sales Chart: Graphic Novel sales and Guardians of the Galaxy

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In yesterday’s comments on the Mike Dawson Mid-career assessment, retailer Brian Hibbs stepped in with some comments, including this one

Heidi: I’d argue that the sales charts show that it’s the prevalent* one? Exceedingly few OGNs succeed, and the field is littered with ones that failed.

This is a battle between Brian and I as old and busted as Batman vs The Joker. Brian thinks OGNS are useless from a sales viewpoint as far as the DM goes, and I think they are a magnificent channel for comics and sales. In fact, a few months ago out schism led to a rather spirited debate in this post: Retailer roundtable: Are graphic novels a “sh*tty* business model?
The upshot of that one was that comics retailers still sell more periodicals and collections of periodicals. Fair enough. But being snotty, I decided to take a look at the Amazon bestsellers charts for comics and GNs, a rolling average snapshot that reflects sales very definitely outside the DM. I have this on a feed and I check it every night, so I’m pretty familiar with the books that have been doing week for the last few months (Saga, Walking Dead). Today’s is quite different, but let’s take a look any way. I’ve highlighted the OGNs on the list (quirks in format are from how I copied the list.)

1. Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & L…
2.The Walking Dead Volume 21: All Out W… by Robert Kirkman
3.Batman Eternal (2014- ) #1by James T. Tynion IV
4. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
5. Seconds: A Graphic Novelby Bryan Lee O’Malley
6. Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Return of th…by Jeffrey Brown

7. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Lega…by Dan Abnett
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1: Cos…by Brian Michael Bendis
9. Goodnight Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown
10. Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
11. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father…by Art Spiegelman
12. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pl…by Roz Chast
13. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Sit…by Allie Brosh

14. Saga, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
15. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxyby Douglas Adams (??)
16. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rif… by Gene Luen Yang
17. Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
18. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia by Akira Himekawa
19. The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel: Spide…by Frank Berrios
20. Thanos: The Infinity Revelationby Jim Starlin

Setting aside the ringers on the list (Hitchhikers Guide and Hyrule Hysteria ) eight out of the eighteen titles are OGNs. I suppose you could call that Spider-man Little Golden Book an OGN, but I won’t.

Even setting aside the perennials (Maus and Persepolis) there are still 6 recent works on the list. Roz Chast’s book has been a regular bestseller since it came out, and Hyperbole and a Half has been a monster seller. (That’s a hybrid work, admittedly.) I expect to see Bryan Lee O’Malleys Seconds on the list for quite a while. The big winner is Jeffrey Brown, who can’t miss with Star Wars, it seems. 



Anyway what does that prove? These could be the exceptional few that Hibbs mentioned, or the top of the iceberg. Anyway, throwing it out there. 



The other big news on the list is…Guardians of the Galaxy! In all the deserved attention to Jim Starlin and Bill Mantlo, it has barely been mentioned that the actual line-up of the GotG that the movie was based on was the version by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, a writing team now broken up but still a potent best seller. Their first collection is at #81 in the top 100 books, so it’s probably selling briskly. 


It’s pretty unusual when a comic book based movie comes out to see comics collections sell this well when there isn’t a direct connection with the source material. I don’t know how long it will last (guessing a few weeks) but I hope it gives some of the authors a nice boost.

6 Comments on Sales Chart: Graphic Novel sales and Guardians of the Galaxy, last added: 8/6/2014
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14. The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 4: Geof Darrow and Kinokuniya

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngLive from San Diego Comic Con, it’s More To Come! Publishers Weekly’s podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In part four of More To Come’s San Diego Comic-Con special podcast, Calvin Reid interviews comic artist and writer Geof Darrow about creating Shaolin Cowboy and The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. Then, he speaks with Terence Irvins, graphic novel buyer at Japan-based bookstore chain Kinokuniya about their upcoming big push into the American comics market

Listen to this episode in streaming here, download it direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

0 Comments on The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 4: Geof Darrow and Kinokuniya as of 7/28/2014 1:16:00 AM
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15. The Retailer’s View // The Death of Archie and Selling Comics

by Brandon Schatz

On Monday, the pop culture bereft owner of my shop phoned had asked if I had ordered enough of the “death of Archie thing” that was happening. As with all comics, the news of this event had been announced well in advance. As always, calls came pouring in over the telephone lines. People wanted the comic where Archie dies. I had to explain to them that it wouldn’t be happening until July. At this point, reactions would vary from uncomfortable silence to outright indignation. One such phone customer accused me of hoarding copies to sell for a premium at a later date. I had to bite my tongue before I told them they didn’t understand the first thing about books like this.

LifeWithArchie_36_FionaStaples.jpg

When books like Life With Archie #36 hit the stands, the store gets a mountain of phone calls and visitors looking to get their mitts on copies of the books in question. A sizeable chunk of these people are just popping into the medium for a visit, having heard the news on the radio or television or from a friend. Most just want to have a copy to say they have it. Some even want to read the damn thing. Inevitably, the fever dies down (usually by the weekend, with a few stragglers looking for copies weeks, months and years later) and the effects are negligible. There’s very little that will turn someone who had no interest in reading comics into a full fledged Wednesday warrior overnight. Regardless, events like this always give me hope, and usually net a small handful of new customers who didn’t know we existed, and liked the service enough to return. Almost 100% of these return customers are people who took the time to actually read the book they came into purchase, instead of stashing it away in a box that they’ll bring back to us several years down the road for All The Money. Some books make this transition easier than others, offering a smooth read with interesting bits of storytelling that dig the hooks in. I remember the Death of Captain America netting quite a few return customers, as did the Death of Johnny Storm. I doubt the Death of Archie will have the same effect – and it all comes down to the company’s lack of experience when dealing with these big events.

When you open Life With Archie #36, you’re greeted with two full pages that explain the series to date in near excruciating detail. The opening gives new readers an overview of what the book was up until this point: an exploration of two possible futures where Archie married Betty and Veronica. This, along with the information that Kevin Keller is running for Senate on a platform of gun control and gay rights is all you need to know to enjoy what follows. Instead, the recap spends time talking about all the various differences and similarities between the two realities. It even spends a paragraph detailing the time that an Evil and Good Dilton almost destroy the Archie multiverse using science. None of this information is needed, and serves only to confuse the inexperienced reader who thinks they might want to dip their toe into the medium.

LifeWithArchie_36_RamonPerez.jpg

After selling comics at the shop for nearly eight years, I’ve come to realize that the best way to sell a comic is to give people as little information as possible. Have you ever sat through an hour long lecture as to why the Silver Age Legion is the best Legion? I sure have. You know what it didn’t do? Make me want to read Legion comics. In fact, it made me want to avoid them. Passion needs to be discovered, not explained – and Archie Comics failed in that this week. They did a poor job selling a book that was going to sell itself, something that could have been easily avoided with a stronger editorial hand.

The issue itself is quite good. Instead of giving new readers the same story in both realities, Paul Kupperberg and Pat & Tim Kennedy play things fast and loose with some pronouns and character placement, allowing the story to function viably in both realities, utilizing a form of brevity for the concept. It’s not high art by any means, but it’s a nice, suitable story that brings a character’s journey to a poignant end. The only failing seems to be how eager the company is to explain things that don’t need to be explained, giving the reader a jumble of information that would have been better served as a story they explored later, than explained in a blurb. That said, Archie is Archie, and will endure forever, so it’s not like people are going to be bucked off the train to Riverdale. The event continues to paint comics as a medium that is indesipherable to get into – after all, if you can’t understand what’s going on in an Archie title, what hope would you have for anything else on the stands.

Regardless, this book is going to sell. It was sold before it hit the stands, and will be a novelty for a long time to come. It’s just a shame it couldn’t sell the industry at the same time.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and works on building his comic book recommendation engine over at Variant Edition. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat]

7 Comments on The Retailer’s View // The Death of Archie and Selling Comics, last added: 7/18/2014
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16. The secret of comics history that people on the internet don’t want you to know!

jill trent science sleuth

I was asked not too long ago what was something I was proud of writing on The Beat, and it’s actually something I didn’t write. This post by political communications specialist Brett Schenker entitled Market Research Says 46.67% of Comic Fans are Female from February, was pretty groundbreaking. Why am I mentioning a six month old post? Well, people continue to quote it when they look for demographic information on comics readership, and it represents a solid benchmark in an area where there is shockingly little research. Schenker’s research via Facebook, which he’s graciously presented here, has been quoted in numerous articles and yesterday it was referenced in this Time.Com piece on the new female Thor. I tweeted it again and it got a whole new set of reactions on twitter from people who hadn’t seen it the first time.

But before talking about that let’s go back to Lady Thor. In the official Marvel PR about the new book, this bombshell was dropped:

THOR is the latest in the ever-growing and long list of female-centric titles that continues to invite new readers into the Marvel Universe. This female THOR is the 8th title to feature a lead female protagonist and aims to speak directly to an audience that long was not the target for Super Hero comic books in America: women and girls.

Now that coupled with the announcement of the book on The View indicates, ever to subtly, that this books was being marketed as something that actual women who are non-comics-averse might be curious about. I’ve seen some suggestions that there were big political machination behind all this, and I’m sure there’s a story there, but we’ll take it at face value for now. As I’ve indicated before, Marvel/Disney are big on customer info, and about a year ago they started being way more female reader friendly, so obviously something is happening.

Sue at DCWKA took the Marvel statement as the occasion for a much deserved victory lap:

Say what? I’m sorry what was that? Is Marvel actually saying they want female readers? That they are now targeting female readers? 

Why yes they are.

It’s almost worth the amount of trolling, attacks, rape threats and other shit I’ve experienced to see this.

Of course, DC Comics also seems to be finally finding the female audience worthy of their attention. Nothing as clear cut as Marvel did above but the recent Batgirl respin and Gotham Academy are clearly going after that audience and I was told by folks close to those books that women are definitely are a target.

Two years ago Heidi McDonald wrote a great story  (that I disagreed with) about how Marvel and DC would never truly [target] female readers.

But now? Something has changed at both publishers.

Is it real? Will it last? Who knows?

But I will say I am enjoying it.

It’s true that two years ago I felt that the place of superheroes as the great hope for boys entertainment at both WB and Disney meant that aiming them squarely at the male demographic was in their corporate interests. Since then, female consumership of all kinds of media has become a lot more obvious via social media and so maybe a dollar is a dollar. (See Box-Office Woes: Age and Gender Gap Helping Fuel Summer Decline.)
It is also possible that superheroes are just SO IRRESISTIBLE to EVERYONE that even girl cooties can’t destroy boy interest in them. The success of Marvel’s movies would seem to be the prime evidence of that.

Anyway, yesterday was a busy day but I took a peek back at Brett’s original post and scanned the comments, which are a fleet of brittle ocean liners of denial in a troubled sea of floating demographic icebergs. These comments also aroused a new round of response on twitter, from dismay to agreement. But in the comments a matter was broached by Kurt Busiek that is far more telling, to me anyway: why the female readership of the comics medium dwindled so much in the 80s that it’s taken us 30 years to admit that it might actually exist.

Girls have always read comics.

They read early newspaper strips. They read early superhero comics. They certainly read romance comics and humor comics in the 40s and 50s and on through the 60s. (Trina Robbins‘s research deiscovered readership statements from the 50s that showed a bit more 50% of the comics readership was female.) They read Archies. They read later newspaper strips, in fact they read them to this day.

But of course, in the 70s, the newsstand distribution system for cheap comics dissolved, to be replaced by the direct sales market, a business run by passionate fans of mostly superhero comics, a group that was heavily male, as early fanzines show. The other day John Jackson Miller did a major analysis of Archie sales through the years (which got picked up by Fivethirtyeight.com, go John!) and it included this chart of Archie newsstand sales, according to Post Office statements:
ArchieChart.jpg
Not too much to argue with there. Without newsstands and their broad, non fanatic readership, Archie sales struggled. And since the readership was significantly female, you can see right there where the girls went away. 

We were left with a period, lasting to this day although drifting away as the dawn breaks up a fog, in which a factual situation that was demonstrably historically true—women reading comics—simply became nonexistent.
Scary, isn’t it?

I’m not sure why it is so, so important that the comics medium remain a boys club to so many men. Guys, you can read what you want and no one will ruin it just by liking Lucy Knisley or Moto Haggio. I think it’s fine to have boy-focused material like Batman or Spider-Man or whatever, as long as you don’t use boy focused material as “proof” that women don’t read comics. It’s like saying that just because guys overwhelmingly like Transformers movies, women don’t like any movies. 

It’s exactly like that.

Luckily, as I’ve said here many times, the internet has revealed some truths that gatekeeper media did its best to suppress. So now we see cartooning schools overwhelmingly female, conventions about 40% female, bestselling female cartoonists, award winning female cartoonists, popular female characters, and lots of women who demonstrably provably read and enjoy the comics medium. 

Are the numbers in Brett’s Facebook research writ in granite? No. But since FB mostly exists as a giant marketing tool, it’s kind of what this sort of research was made to do. It isn’t voodoo, it isn’t lies, it isn’t damn lies, it’s just statistics. Statistics which are generally born out by other demographics that we’re seeing.


Perhaps most amusing about all this is concern trolling by those who claim to want to get comics back to “the mainstream” by getting back on “newsstands.” I got news for ya hub, we have a new newsstand it’s called digital and the mainstream—just as it was for the first 70 years or so of the comics medium’s existence in the US—appeals to a fairly broad demographic.

Just to finish up, Brett is working on updated research which I’ll be presenting at this panel at San Diego, where Rob Salkowivz will also be presenting new demographic info from Eventbrite. Come on out to find out if they match up!

The Future of Geek

Will comics’ takeover of pop culture continue, or has geek peaked? Industry-watchers Heidi MacDonald (The Beat), Rob Salkowitz (Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture), and Tim Beyers (Motley Fool) follow the money in conventions, movies, and publishing to forecast the future of the fandom business. John Siuntres (Word Balloon podcast) moderates.
Friday July 25, 2014 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Room 28DE

 

Image via Superdames

14 Comments on The secret of comics history that people on the internet don’t want you to know!, last added: 7/17/2014
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17. The Retailer’s View: Antagonistic

by Brandon Schatz

There was a piece hovering around the comics internet this weekend about the industry’s supposed need of more shit-talkers. It was an interesting and well-intentioned conversation, but the premise was flawed from the start. The industry doesn’t need destructive forces. It currently has its fill of that. What the industry needs is more constructure forces. It needs companies and retailers and creators and fans who will ask uncomfortable questions and confront uncomfortable answers.

When I write these pieces, I always try to stay constructive. It would be very easy to tears strips off a publisher or a creator and cry doom at the top of my lungs and call it a day. Have you ever tried to build a house? What a condescending question. Sorry about that. The point is, building a house is hard. Knocking it down is a whole lot easier. If you build, it means you have a place to work and live for a while. If you break, you have a pile of rubble to kick around. Is this metaphor working at all? Regardless, I want to build something – or at least help do it. To do that, I need a foundation. If I’m going to stress the metaphor even further, I need a basement. This is going to be that basement.

A few words of warning: this is going to be rough, and broad. The intent is to hit upon all the key parts of the industry, and provide a basic structure for what the basic roles are, and what they should accomplish. There is very little finesse involved at this stage, as the concrete is poured, but nobody expects a basement to be fancy – or at least, not when you’re providing the bones. I need to shut up about houses.

The comic book industry, broken down to its foundation, as seen by a retailer. Here goes.

reading

READERS

A reader is a person who likes comics and reads them in their spare time. A singular reader has likes and dislikes, and their money spent reflects this.

As a collective, readers are the hot molten core of the industry. Without them, there would be no reason to exist, no reason to produce. As a mass, they have an indirect effect on what is made, and a more direct effect on what sticks. Their job, if you can call it that, is to purchase and consume. That is it. That is all.

Readers are not arbiters, no matter what anybody says. They do not settle disputes and their purchases should say nothing more than “I like this” and “I don’t like that”. While some would shame and call readers to task for their habits, at a basic level, the industry should be allowed to provide the experience of entertainment unencumbered, first and foremost. Shades and layers can and should always be plied atop of this foundation, but readers shouldn’t be required to keep up with the inner machinations of comic book companies, or the ethics of creator compensation or the like. As long as the urge for entertainment is being sated, then the readers are sated.

CREATORS

A creator is a person who likes comics and creates them – sometimes as a job, sometimes as an outlet. If a creator is working in the comic book industry, there is something about it that speaks to them in a way that other mediums can’t quite sate. This is why they are here, and not there, after all.

Creators craft stories that they want and need to tell. Why would they do anything else? Why should they do anything else?

Creators are not responsible for making the landscape of the industry diverse. Their first responsibility should always been themselves, first and foremost. Readers can tell if a creator is hacking a book out, and they usually react. More than anything, readers wants to connect with the material, and the easiest way for that to happen is for the creator or creators to feel connected as well, to form that connection at inception. When this happens or as this happens, the reaction between creator, creation and reader is pure. It satisfies need, and fuels the industry with content. This is what is needed. This is the goal.

CRITICS

A critic is a person who likes comics or admires the craft. At their best, they can take a comic and reverse engineer it, pulling out various bits of writing and art and ably seeing how parts function separately and together.

A great critic uses opinion sparingly to inform an audience of personal bias while providing readers with the means to make an informed decision. Therein lies the key difference between a true critic, and a fan. A fan lives and breathe opinion and uses that in an attempt to sway readers. There’s nothing wrong with this, but ascribing a critical nature to a screed based more in opinion than craft is selling the art of critique short. Having the money to have internet access and the wherewithal to stake out a piece of internet real estate does not make you a critic, it makes you a person who has access to the internet. That said, there is never, ever anything wrong with having or sharing opinions. That’s what I’m doing here, after all. What I’m presenting here isn’t fact so much as it’s my interpretation of certain facts. I would also not describe myself as a critic, but a retailer with opinions.

marvel-logo

PUBLISHERS

A publisher is a person or a group of people who like comics. People might say otherwise, but there’s a good reason they chose to work in the industry – and it sure as hell isn’t the money.

Publishers make comics because they love them. In a perfect world, they might do this without any other motive, but because it’s our world, they have to serve the needs of the business so that readers have something to read and creators have something to create.

Publishers have it rough. Keeping a balance of art and business is hard, as evidenced by the trail of broken ongoings left in the dust of time. Nobody starts a project with intending for its life to be cut short. No one creates a character with the hopes that their time will come before it’s due – but it happens. Readers don’t connect, either emotionally or physically. The business doesn’t support the art, and so something has to give. If something doesn’t give, then soon, the company goes along with it. So yes, it would be great if a book like Ms. Marvel would go on forever, and yes, it might be great if there was one or two less X-Men or Batman books on the schedule – but a publisher can’t ignore the information that readers give them. That said, they can and should ignore the information that a reader gives them. There is nothing worse than a reader or a fan calling dominion over public opinion. Again: a reader is not an arbiter. A fan is not an arbiter. They are singular. When part of a mass, when measured in sales, they are a force to be listened to and reckoned with, and not before that.

DISTRIBUTORS

A distributor might not actually like comics – although that is more my personal opinion than actual fact. Currently, the comic industry’s physical distributor is nearly singular, with a few bits and bobs trickling out to newsstands from magazine distributors. It’s legal digital distributor is similar, though infinitely more complicated to get into in this particular article. Rest assured, that will be explored in full at a later date. Anyway, distributors are often just a means to an end – and to that end, ours are a little problematic. For instance, this week, I was shorted the entirety of my All New Ultimates order. This is something that occurs far too regularly, along with miscounted quantities and scads of damaged product. In a perfect world, a distributor would get content out without much or any conflict, allowing retailers and readers access without barrier. Which brings us to:

reading comics

RETAILERS

A retailer is a person or people who like comics. Or at least they should. They are the nexus of all points, where the needs of readers and creators and publishers and distributors all meet. Retailers pay for product. They are also paid for product. As such, they carry with them some immeasurable responsibilities. They need to be fans, they need to be businesses, and they need to be critics, and they need to know how to properly measure out doses of all three. Retailers who don’t do this? They don’t need to exist.

I am a retailer. I order books, and I make sure comics get into the hands of the people who want to read them. That is what I do. That is my goal. I know full well that I’m not needed. If there was a system that moved people straight to the product, we wouldn’t need to exist. And yes, I know, “the future is now”. ComiXology and the like provide that very service to people, combining the retailer and distributor into a singular entity. (More to the point, Marvel’s Unlimited app does something similar, though it condenses the retailer and distributor roles even further into the publishing realm.) Yet, retailers still exist. Are they vestigial appendages to an old system? Are they a vital part of the future of the industry?

The answer to both questions are “yes”. There are retailers out there who are a means to an end. They exist because they’ve always existed, and were once a vital part of the industry – but they are no longer required. These retailers will disappear into the ether, providing a service that can be obtained elsewhere, with easier access. There are other retailers, however, that will remain, despite the changes the industry will face. They are the ones who take upon all rolls, and balance them with aplomb. They are the readers, they are the fans, they are the distributors who know and care about the wants and needs of their customers. They are the ones who seek to work with the publishers, even when the publishers might be seemingly working against them. They are the ones who can’t help but love this industry, and claw for the best. They are the ones who address hard questions and attempt to deal with the consequence of hard answers, balancing art and commerce so that readers and creators don’t have to.

This industry needs good retailers. At least for now. Who knows, in the future, all comics might be digital. I’ve long suspected the fact that single issues will disappear in the physical format, leaving stores as a place to obtain physical collections for all those who wish for their favourites to take up tangible space in their lives. Whatever happens, the industry will need all of it’s cogs to work in perfect or near perfect order to continue. It will need a solid base to grow from. Hopefully, we can all make that happen.\

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and stares at passive keyboards and empty word documents, making secret wishes and bargains that will surely come back to haunt him. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat]

2 Comments on The Retailer’s View: Antagonistic, last added: 6/24/2014
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18. The Retailer’s View: Event Comics and Ordering Abuse

by Brandon Schatz

When you spend your days breaking open comic solicitations and marketing for a living, you begin to pick out patterns. A new batch of solicitations hit the internet, and suddenly your world starts to Beautiful Mind itself with floating words and numbers that glow as you drink the information. When I’m placing orders, it’s helpful to be able to see the patterns. Ordering is hard enough when you have to guess at the individual buying habits of hundreds of different people, most of whom won’t let you know if they liked a book until the next issue is out on the stands, and every little bit of help is appreciated.

That said, being able to see patterns can also be a curse. When you begin to see the moving parts and start to understand how and why they move, the machine becomes a lot less impressive. Suddenly it’s not some magic thing, it’s a series of wrote events. The worst of this ability comes when you begin to see dark clouds on the horizon. You know something bad is coming, but you’re not sure what you can do to stop it. Lately, I’ve been getting some dark vibes from Marvel and DC in the shape of some weird final order cut-off abuses. But first, some context.

For the bulk of the direct market’s existence, retailers have had to work in a system where orders for much of their stock are placed months in advance. For example, at the end of this month, I will be sending in my orders for books that start shipping in August. As you might guess, it’s a tough racket, trying to guess what people will be interested in so far in advance. To that end, roughly five years ago, several publishers started participating in a “final order cut-off” program, which allows retailers to adjust their orders on the company’s upcoming slate of books right up to the point where the books hit the printer, roughly three weeks in advance of release. Closing this time gap was, and is a godsend. More often than not, a book that hits the stands on a Wednesday will have its second issue up on FOC on Monday, and a retailer can take into account the books’ actual demand, instead of using the order they placed blind several weeks before. While this system isn’t flawless, it tends to work out more often than it doesn’t. It allows the patterns to ply with greater ease, freeing retailers to stop fretting over wild guesses in the face of numbers they’re more sure of. Naturally, it needed to be destroyed.

There are times where I feel Marvel and DC are at odds with their “retail partners”, and treat them with a modicum of disdain. I’m sure this isn’t true, but their actions often say otherwise. For example, I take DC’s insistence on providing the industry with a new round of lenticular covers as a sign that they think we’re stupid, and that retailers will buy anything if they wave their arms wide enough. For the most part, this is true. DC will undoubtably have their best month of sales in September, despite the fact that the production time on the covers had retailers ordering them over three months in advance, with no chance to adjust at a later date. At a basic level, it shows that the company doesn’t care much if a retailer can recoup money from the comics they’ve purchased, they just want the books out the door.

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Marvel has adopted a similar tactic lately when it comes to some of their event books. Yesterday, they asked us to set our orders for all four issues of their Thor and Loki Original Sin tie in. The first issue ships in July, while the last ships in September. They did something similar with the Hulk vs. Iron Man tie in, and will be doing the same for the Death of Wolverine series. Rapid shipping books without the luxury of order adjustment. This is a nightmare. Not only does it circumvent the final order cut-off system, which helps retailers reflect a book’s actual readership in their orders, but it takes the old system, and makes it worse. At least back then if there was a four issue mini-series solicited, you would be able to adjust your numbers according to a wider range of sales data. You didn’t have to set your numbers all at once, you could stagger the decision making, take a look at where your customer base is drifting, determine if they were even into the event, and maybe have enough time to save yourself for ordering way to much or too little on the final issues.

In doing this, the publishers are putting their foot down and stating they are in the business of selling comics for them and not for anyone else. They are the only party this form of ordering benefits, after all. As a retailer, the larger the gap is between my final order and the comics release, the more risk I have to take on. How do I know the series will retain its’ readership? And what if I didn’t order enough to begin with? Will I be awash in copies, or will I be crossing my fingers that some back orders go through so that my customers might see the product?

When retailers have to deal with this kind of risky guesswork, it has ripple effects in the industry. Smaller gaps in ordering time inevitably leads to improved ordering, and improved ordering means a store cut copies from their order that wouldn’t be sold, and use that money to stock comics that would. It allows a shop to be more profitable, and better serve their customers and the industry. This is how things should work in a system where one cog needs the other to perform a function.

What’s worse is the fact that this is all clearly a test. Remember what I said before about spotting patterns? Marvel and DC will do this kind of thing every so often, experimenting with the delivery system to see what they can get away with, while still experiencing sales. These are test balloons to see if they can continue to build a system that benefits them more than anyone else. The unfortunate thing is that we as retailers often put up with it, and allow them to continue to leech power away from us. We place our orders for lenticular covers with a smile despite the nightmare that occurred last year, and the fact that DC had decided what the plots would be internally before handing out assignments to whichever warm bodies they could find. We look at the final order cut off for the Thor and Loki mini, and we shrug and plug in numbers that amount to “Thor + Loki + Original Sin” and hope for the best, knowing full well that despite adjustments made to approximate demand, the orders won’t stick the landing. We do this, and we do this, and we do this, and we never fight back, because we can’t. After all, where else are we going to get the product from? And hey, if we don’t have the product, they’re just going to get it from somewhere else, right?

The system is already broken. Comics are hard enough to distribute. The final order cut-offs were something nice, something that made the whole process a little easier – and slowly but surely, it’s ebbing away. In the end, Marvel and DC might be able to smile and count their money while they see sales on certain titles retain a greater amount of sales, but shops will inevitably be all the poorer for it, leaving them with less money to spend on the next thing – which will inevitably bring about the next short sighted ploy and so on and so forth.

When I think about this, I’m always reminded of the fact that the end of the world won’t probably happen suddenly. We like to think it might, because that would absolve us all of our wrongdoings. If the comic industry ends, it won’t be any one big thing. It won’t be a pressed button. It will be the little things that add up. It will be the tiny cuts. It will be things like this, and the cyclical acts it produces. This is not what I want. This is not what we want.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go place my orders for The Death of Wolverine. I’ll see you on the other side.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and stares at passive keyboards and empty word documents, making secret wishes and bargains that will surely come back to haunt him. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat]

12 Comments on The Retailer’s View: Event Comics and Ordering Abuse, last added: 6/19/2014
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19. The Retailer’s View: On Lenticular Covers

By Brandon Schatz

[As always at The Beat, we're trying to get more viewpoints out there, and here's a new one: retailer Brandon Schatz will be giving some views on retailer issues, and first up, let's look at those darned lenticular covers. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect The Beat's.]

There’s very little chance you’re at this site, reading this article about comic book retail, and do not have a working knowledge of recent comic book history. That said, it never hurts to add a little context to current events. So.

In September of 2011, DC Comics relaunched their entire superhero universe with fifty-two brand new ongoing series functioning in a bright new continuity. Since then, the company has used September as a large-scale event month, using 2012 to flashback to the unexplored “early days” of the new continuity, and 2013 to unleash their villains across each and every one of their titles. Conceptually, there’s nothing wrong with this. The comic book industry thrives off of the occasional event as the eyeballs gained from the news of a line-wide disruption usually translates into higher profits. It was the reason why DC’s line-wide relaunch in 2011 was shatteringly successful for that month (and several after), and why their flashback month in 2012 garnered a slight bump in sales, despite a comparatively lower profile concept and easier execution.

Based on those two specific data points, it’s easy to see why DC came to realize “bigger” and “more complicated” would be the preferred road to take for their future events. Sales increased along with the size of the circus they brought with them, and so for their Villain’s Month, they brought one of the largest sideshows they could muster.
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Building from the simple touchpoint of “a villain for every title”, DC set about constructing a complicated structure of moving images and complicated numbering. Each and every title would have a lenticular cover that featured moving “3-D” images so entice the eye. This would balloon the cost of each month book from the more typical $2.99 to $3.99 for the month across the line, increasing the bottom line for retailers. Again, this is a simple enough idea in concept, one that’s still a painless hop, skip and jump away from “business as usual”. The first real complication came in the form of DC’s intricate publishing schedule and numbering strategy. Because the books wouldn’t necessarily further an ongoing’s overall plot, the company decided to employ the sub-numbering system Marvel had been toying with, changing what would be Action Comics #24 into Action Comics #23.1. In theory, I have no problem with this strategy – when employed properly, and used by retailers correctly, sub-numbering can have benefits for all involved. In this case, it would benefit the retailers and customers by clearly marking stories that could, for all intents and purposes, be skipped should there be budgetary concerns on the part of a customer who just wants “the story”.

Of course, the very last thing DC wanted was for these comics to be “skippable”, so they did everything in their power to make them “must-haves”. Their main ploy, of course, took the form of their lenticular cover design. Their other failsafe was a publishing schedule that saw their lower selling books wiped from the schedule to make room for multiple shipments of their larger books. In the early days of dealing with this event, this was the biggest problem. Books like Dial H and Katana were given strange She’s All That make-overs and disguised as Justice League titles, while certain titles (like All-Star Western) were moved from the schedule completely. This created a complicated landscape where retailers had try to discern how to add certain books to files without causing too much of a disruption. The headache was enormous.

For my part, I attempted to let everyone know what was happening to the best of my abilities. I came at customers with a list of books and recommendations, asking all comers to choose one of three options: pick which specific books they wanted themselves (so that, say, a hardcore Justice League fan could skip on the Dial H issue of the title, which might have been well outside of their areas of interest), allow me to choose for them (so that Batgirl and Catwoman files would get those issues of Batman: The Dark Knight that would affect the ongoing stories from those titles), or skip the event completely. It was a lot of hard work, but in the end, it was almost worth it. Had DC stuck to their guns and honoured all orders placed before the final ordering deadline, the whole event would have gone smoothly, even if it had required a lot of extra work to do so.

Then came the allocations.

As the story goes, DC didn’t anticipate the demand that the lenticular covers would garner, and had printed far too few. Recently, the company also admitted that a chunk of the books had to be destroyed due to some fuzzy imagery that had resulted during the early stages of production cycle, which limited supply even further. In any case, retailers were eventually told that their orders for the 3D covers were going to be highly allocated, and as a result, the company would be producing a line of 2D covers to match at the $2.99 price point in order to meet demand. There were several problems with this, starting with the fact that the company waited to make this announcement the week after final orders were placed for the first week of the event. To make matters worse, DC didn’t announce allocation amounts until three days before they wanted final orders for the 2D covers they were using to “cover” what would amount to intense product shortages. For me, that meant I had three days to try and contact each and every one of my customers, and try to explain the changes that were going to happen. Suddenly, I was forced to tell people that I had lied to them about there only being a premium $3.99 edition available, many of whom had previously sworn off the month of publication to save money on their already strained budgets. In many cases, I had to essentially barter with people who expected a complete run of lenticular covers because DC had decided to allocated book like the aforementioned Dial H issue of Justice League using a store’s orders for Dial H – meaning a book that was selling an estimated 11,086 copies industry wide in August 2013 hiding within the covers of a book that sold an estimated 103,936 for the same month was being used to fill orders. That’s almost a 90% difference in sales. The allocation for most stores reflected that, creating a bit of a gap between what could feasibly make its way into the hands of customers, and what would have ordered to hopefully placate the frustrated.

To their credit, DC made the entirety of the event returnable in order to take the bulk of the financial strain away from the retailers (though as a Canadian retailer, the returns process is financially questionable at the best of times), but there was never a question about the event’s financial success. With a line-up theoretically consisting of their highest selling titles and a crop of titles at higher price points with guaranteed sell-through, the money was always going to come in. On the other hand, the amount of heavy lifting a retailer had to do to frantically adjust numbers at the very last second and satisfy customer demand far outweighed the price benefits… if you were the type of retailer who sold things at cover price. Many didn’t but that’s another topic completely.

The result was a catastrophic mess that I will never forget, the result of over a solid month of stress dreams involving missing product and irate customers. While nothing in reality quite approached the level of anger and despair I felt in my dreams, and while the store had fantastic sales for the month, it wasn’t worth the strain and effort – especially when the collector mentality it garnered did nothing positive to our bottom line moving forward.

Flash forward several months to February 27th, 2014. A nondescript man in England was sitting at a pub. He lifted his glass to finish his third pint when a sharp pain suddenly shot through his soul. He dropped the glass, and people stared, some of them clapping. He ignored them, taken aback by the great feeling of empty horror and loss that struck so quickly and left just as fast. He doesn’t know that DC was at a ComicsPRO retailer announcing a new round of lenticular covers for this September, and he certainly didn’t realize that my sense of horror ran so deep that I could radiate waves of crippling despair from the frigid norths of Canada.

Okay, so maybe that psychic resonance thing didn’t happen, but that’s the closest approximation I can make in regards to my feelings about that announcement – something dark gripping my heart immediately and violently, crying out to be empathized with, before dissipating into something that resembled… weary acceptance. Of course they were going to try again – only this time, they were going to try to “fix” some of the problems they had with the first round. It started with soliciting the line well before the typical time frame, requiring retailers to set numbers for the September shipping titles alongside ones that would find their way to the stands in July. As with the previous event cycle, this in and of itself is fine. Even enforcing a strict Final Order date of May 29th was workable, given the popularity of the lenticular covers, and the need to get those orders locked in early. However, in solving one problem, DC opened a door to another set of troubles that are somehow far more distressing than those that marred the previous year’s events.
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As they announced the slate of 41 books that would be getting the lenticular treatment, the company also listed the plots for each of the titles. Beyond that, there was no information. No creators, no covers, nothing, just raw data of the shape of events to come. While the event structure always implied that the circus was more important than the performers, it had yet to be alluded to so overtly. It opened a pit in my stomach that only widened when Dan Didio told attendees at a Diamond retailer summit in late April that the creative teams for roughly half of the line’s books were confirmed as the allusion turned into stated fact.

Most companies don’t publish books out of the goodness of their heart, and a good retailer knows that. It’s the reason why any given Batman title will move a certain amount of copies on a consistent basis, and a title like All Star Western lingers near the bottom of the charts trying to stave off cancellation with each passing month – we have a general sense of what will sell and how it will sell, despite a title’s inherent quality, and we order to match demand. That’s business. That said, if you’re running your store or comic publishing concern properly, there can and should be room for art inside of it. Without the art of comics, there would be no business, and without business, there would be no art. It’s a cyclical pattern that requires both to survive. In crafting this new event, however, DC decided to lean so heavy on the business aspect, that the art became an after-thought.

The history of this industry is rife with people who have chosen the quick dollar over the long game. By and large, the peak is usually pretty tall, but the low is ruinous, as evidenced by the big crash in the 90s. The way DC concocted this year’s event, coupled with last year’s clear lack of preparation and forethought, smacks of a company seeking the dollar at the detriment of anything else. While the company has since released the names of the creative teams attached to each of the 41 September shipping titles, the lingering after effects remain. Forgetting for a second about the lazy retailers who will order blind based off the initial dabs of information contained within their copy of Previews (which only features the plot information), there remains the issue of content, and what it means to the larger market. While the line will undoubtedly post numbers that will dwarf DC’s usual month-to-month orders, it will all be in the name of the event and the lingering effects of their previous round of special covers. Armed with a sense of foreboding and vowing to account for every dollar they potentially lost from a lack of product last year, retailers will undoubtedly order deep on each and every one of the offered 3D covers. With an unencumbered supply, DC will happily reap the benefits of this ordering practice, as they make their dollars when they sell their product to retailers, and not when retailer sell product to their customers. After the book are in retailers’ hands and the cheques are cashed, DC could probably care less about sell-through, as the majority of the product they sell is non-returnable. So there will be a glut of product on the stands – what about the contents? This is where the balance of art and business come into play. Batman will sell enough to keep the lights on almost regardless of what is found within the pages of it’s covers, but the is a correlation between perceived quality and sales. One look at where all the different Bat-books are on the shelves will tell you that with ease. Now, when you take those numbers and start looking at attrition from month to month, you can see the effect that contents will eventually have on the line as a whole. If the contents are sparking something inside a readership, the numbers will remain fairly level or increase. If not, they will drift downwards with stunning velocity.

The nature of this year’s event being an after-thought beyond the more lucrative business aspects is stunning in its short-sightedness. There is a severe lack of art at play within the business model, and it will eventually cause a collapse which will be all the more devastating for those retailers and companies who have been counting on the quick dollar that suddenly no longer exists. I believe that the effects of this are already in play from last year’s event. While I sold through copies of the 3D covers with ease to speculators and collectors, a large swath of my regulars found the stories contained within the Villain’s Month issues to ill-suit their personal likes. It was a feeling compounded by the large buy in the event required, and the darkening of the already uniformly dreary line of comics the company currently publishes. Add to the mix a weekly series that leads into this new event, and I have a customer base that is approaching “apathetic”. I can work with angry. I can’t work with apathy.

A solution to this would be for me to cinch up and work a little bit harder. I could always pound the pavement and find more of the crowd that the current line of DC comics will appeal to. That is, after all, my job as a retailer – to match people with comics that they’ll love – but to do that, I need DC to meet me halfway. I need them to let me know that I’m finding customers for books that they are proud of, with contents that they have put time and effort into. What I heard in April was the vocal equivalent to that shrugging emoticon that’s been doing the rounds on the internet lately. DC wants their quick dollar, and they’re willing to do anything to get it, including burning down the road forward. Eventually, they’re going to see diminishing returns from this tactic, and again, when they do, the results will be far more catastrophic than they would have been had they put their focus on the content of their books and the ideas of their creators all along. Let’s all just hope they can do this before they take some of us down with them.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and stares at passive keyboards and empty word documents, making secret wishes and bargains that will surely come back to haunt him.]

15 Comments on The Retailer’s View: On Lenticular Covers, last added: 5/29/2014
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20. Not all comics shops: Brave New World

Brave New World Comics – The Pop Culture Superstore from Fe Bandana Pictures on Vimeo.

This is a little short film/advertisement that was made about Brave New World, a comics shop in Newhall, CA that’s a past Spirit of Retailing Award winner. It’s run by Portlyn Freeman and partner Autumn. We hear so much about crappy unwelcoming comics shops, let’s take a moment to spotlight one that really understands the importance of a welcoming customer experience.
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3 Comments on Not all comics shops: Brave New World, last added: 5/29/2014
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21. The Retailer’s View: Bob Wayne, an appreciation

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by Brandon Schatz

As the whispers from last week’s Diamond Retailer Summit turned into audible noise, it quickly became apparent that the rumours were true: after 28 years with the company, Bob Wayne would be retiring from DC Comics when the company moves across country early next year.

By all accounts, Wayne was and continues to be a defining voice in the industry. Before taking a job with DC in 1987, he was the owner/operator of Fantastic World’s Bookstore in Fort Worth Texas, a concern that he ballooned into a chain of stores within the span of six years. Having worked in the trenches, Wayne knew and appreciated the needs of the retailer, and kept those needs in mind as the direct market continued to morph and changed into the creature it is today.

When the direct market first started to form in the early 70s, it was quite different. While today, it denotes the system from which retailers purchase and receive product form one large distributor, it originally functioned as a bypass. Retailers would order comics directly from the publishers themselves, removing the middlemen completely. Intended as a supplement to traditional ordering methods, it eventually became quite similar to the systems it was designed to cut out. Much of this was down to necessity – over the years, the direct market went from something fairly niche growing slowly at the sidelines, to something all encompassing and overwhelming during the 80s and early 90s.

By all accounts, Wayne’s presence during this time of growth yielded immeasurable benefits. Having someone within the sales structure who understood the needs of retailers – who were and are, for all intents and purposes, DC’s real customers – allowed him to craft systems that took into account retailer needs. He pioneered DC’s retail contact department, which I utilize each and every week to order reorder books that have vanished from my shelf, and to restock books that have come back into print after short periods of unavailability. He was one of the first people to push for return ability for products that retailers would deem as risky purchases, which opened the door for the current “Final Order Cut-Off” system, which grants retailers the ability to adjust their orders right up until the point a company needs to send their books off to print, rather than the moment initial orders are placed months ahead of time.

A DC without Bob Wayne is a concerning beast. All one has to do is take a trip a back to DC’s most recent large scale structure change that saw Diane Nelson take the top spot in the company, with Paul Levitz transitioning back towards writing in a move reminiscent of the old Marvel days where old editors were “paid off”, so to speak, with guaranteed writing gigs. It was a moment that seemed to change the company at the core, and set it on the course it remains on today. Without someone with a deep and abiding knowledge for the history of the medium, and the previous mistakes made, the company seems to be shifting back towards a by-gone era of mistakes that once nearly doomed the industry. Between the gimmicky covers and what appears to be a complete lack of respect for much of their talent (as evidenced by missing solicitations from their slate of September books, to the endlessly rotating creative teams and concepts on their lower tier books), DC resembles something more akin to a heartless Hollywood studios from works of fiction than a company concerned with art and character.

Without Wayne’s stabilizing influence over their sales department, can we really be sure business will continue as usual? Comics have always been a very unique medium with very unique needs that can’t quite be met by transferring means and methods used in other mediums. I would even argue that the comics medium is so specialized and particular, a person who had an intricate working knowledge of the magazine market couldn’t come in and work the system with anything approaching ease. By and large, the magazine market features product that’s returnable, whereas the comic book market does not. At first blush, that seems like a fairly simple distinction that shouldn’t garner too much of a difference, but the psychological mindset between ordering product that you can return vs. a product that you can’t is staggering. With returnable product, the pressure is on the company to push the product to the readers. A retailer becomes a glorified delivery method, a means of getting product into the hands of those who would experience it. With a non-returnable product, the brunt of the pressure is on the retailer to sell the product – they are making the decision as to what to order and how best to serve their customers. It would be very easy for someone to waltz into Wayne’s position and misinterpret the needs of the system. Anything less than recognizing retailers as the customer in a non-returnable system could spell a certain kind of disaster. While it always behooves a sales department to get the word out to the general consumer, forgetting the retailer in the equation would lead to a lack of product on the market, defeating any marketing put forth. It would also be disastrous if a sales department decided to rest on their laurels because the product is non-returnable. While the fact that comics are non-returnable would make a magazine salesperson salivate with envious glee, it should not be taken as permission to ignore the needs of the retailer. At the end of the day, they are your mot important customer, the people who decide whether or not your comics are successful or not (given the current distribution system), and treating them in such a dismissive manner will eventually result in much lower sales.

While it’s hard to say what the industry will look like without Wayne, it is easy to say it was all the better for his presence. Like many others have said, DC’s current placement in the market, a distant second, is not so much a comment on Wayne’s sales acumen. DC is trailing despite his efforts, not because of them. He knows what he’s doing. Who knows what will happen if DC hires someone who doesn’t.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and stares at passive keyboards and empty word documents, making secret wishes and bargains that will surely come back to haunt him. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect The Beat's]

7 Comments on The Retailer’s View: Bob Wayne, an appreciation, last added: 6/2/2014
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22. Legendary Comics teams with Penguin Random House for three more titles

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Legendary Comics, the comics division of Legendary Entertainment, the movie studio owned by comics-loving Thomas Tull, has had an up and down history since it’s launch. Several of its books—Holy Terror, Godzilla, Pacific Rim—have been bestsellers, but other books have been long delayed. But things are moving forward with new books and new business.They’ve just signed a new deal with Random House Penguin for book store distro—Diamond will continue to work with them for comics shops. According to pr, Penguin Random House will provide sales, production, and publishing services—I think Marvel formerly did some of these for Legendary, but they are not really set up for outside imprints so this is also a step forward.

In statements, everyone was darn excited.
 
“We want to deliver great comics, and this new agreement with Penguin Random House enables us to be much more effective in bringing our stories to readers. We are very excited by this new venture,” said David Sadove of Legendary’s Publishing Operations.
 
Jeff Abraham, President of Penguin Random House Publisher Services, added “Legendary is known for creating some of the most popular films of the past decade. We’re excited to partner with Legendary Comics and to help grow their publishing unit into a thriving participant in the graphic novel market.”
 
“Penguin Random House Publisher Services’ expertise will enable us to broaden our reach as we expand our ever-growing catalogue. Working with a mix of seasoned comic book pros and some bright newcomers, we are committed to delivering the best new stories, characters and worlds in the industry. The three new titles we are announcing today are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come from Legendary Comics,” said Bob Schreck, Legendary Comics’ Editor-In-Chief.

AND they announced three new titles, to boot.
 
A TOWN CALLED DRAGON
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Modern-day America and ancient mythology collide when the last dragon egg finally hatches, and an ordinary group of citizens must unite to defeat it. 

Coming in September 2014.
 
EPOCHALYPSE
Writer: Jonathan Hennessey 
Artist: Shane Davis

When a mysterious space-time phenomenon causes 600 years of human history to collapse into a single era, an elite team of Resynchronization officers must wage a war against the very laws of time. 

Coming in Fall 2014.
 
THE HARVESTER
Writer: Brandon Seifert
Artist: Eric Battle
A supernatural suspense story unfolds when two rebellious investigators discover that the nightmarish urban legend of “The Harvester” is more real – and more dangerous – than they ever imagined.

Coming in 2015.

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23. Fat Jack’s Comicrypt celebrates its 38th Anniversary tomorrow with wrestlers Daniels and Kazarian

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I’m not exactly certain how many US comics shops can celebrate a 38th anniversary, but it isn’t a whole lot. Fat Jack’s Comicrypt is not only Philadelphia’s first comics shop, it’s an institution in its own right. But you never stop learning and growing and they are throwing their first ever anniversary party—so what if it’s the 38th. Good training for the big four-oh.

As guests they’ll have wrestlers Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, who are along with being champions at some point, writers for Aw Yeah comics and, I’m told, soon Dynamite. They’ll be signing TOMORROW from 1 PM to 4 PM.

As part of the celebration, Fat Jack’s is having a 38% off sale on most back issues and all kids under 10 years old will receive a free comic.

From Christopher Daniels: “We’re thrilled to get an opportunity to meet the great wrestling and comic book fans at one of the best stores on the East Coast, Fat Jack’s Comicrypt! I hope they enjoy nonsense & tomfoolery, that’s all I put in the comic book!”

From Frankie Kazarian: “We’re looking forward to chewing the fat with all the fans that come out to Fat Jack’s. We’re psyched to show them all what Bad Influence & AW YEAH COMICS are all about!”

Mike Ferrero of Fat Jack’s Comicrypt: “Christopher (Daniels) and Frankie (Kazarian) are two incredible wrestlers who know how to entertain their fans, and their first comic is a fun and great read. We’re extremely happy to be hosting this signing for our fans at the store, and having it coincide with our anniversary sale helps us put together a great experience for all who come to the store.”


Daniels and Kazarian’s appear in Aw Yeah Comics! #1 and “travel to Beautiful Downtown Skokie to challenge Action Cat & Adventure Bug to a TAG-TEAM wrestling match?! What the…? How did this happen? That doesn’t sound right. How can real-life wrestlers meet comic book characters?” The story is written by Daniels with artwork by Art Baltazar. Bonus Pin-Ups and artwork by Kazarian, Scoot McMahon, Denver Brubaker and Franco. 

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0 Comments on Fat Jack’s Comicrypt celebrates its 38th Anniversary tomorrow with wrestlers Daniels and Kazarian as of 6/7/2014 2:29:00 AM
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24. The Retailer’s View: On Rocket Raccoon Orders Topping 300,000

by Brandon Schatz

When Marvel first announced the Rocket Raccoon book, I was fairly excited. Pairing the character with Skottie Young just as interest would crest for the movie seemed like a no-brainer, one that I could use to sell a few copies to interested parties. I was expecting healthy sales, but nothing that would eclipse the character’s parent title – especially given how stylized Young’s art is. What I hadn’t counted on was for Marvel to play their hand almost perfectly, netting a fairly unprecedented 300,000 copy order before the book’s final cut-off. How in the world did they swing such a huge number – especially with a relatively small amount of incentives? Let’s break things down.

art by Skottie Young

art by Skottie Young

It starts at the core: with creator Skottie Young. Over the years, Young has built himself as a brand quite handily. Choosing projects that played to his strengths, and running with the swell of goodwill garnered by his spot-on series of hilarious “baby” covers, the man went from some punk kid drawing the Human Torch Tsunami book, to an overwhelming creative force through sheer force of will and talent. Witnessing this, Marvel offered him Rocket – a book that not only fit his art style, but his story telling sensibilities – and while almost any comic can sell given the right bit of zeitgeist and marketing, there’s no comic that blows up this big without the core being so strong from the get go. Take a look at the numbers for any of the big two’s recent events. Marvel and DC (and pretty much any company) would have killed to have numbers like this for one of their events – books that they push so hard and stack so high with talent that they can’t help but move tens of thousands of copies without breaking a sweat. Rocket seemed to accomplish a lot more, using relatively less.

The numbers on this series are indicative of Marvel’s creative direction as of late. While you won’t find a shortage of people decrying their tactics or stories, there’s little you can do in the face of numerical data – and while the industry isn’t pulling in the numbers it did in it’s heyday, any upswing that’s occurring within Marvel is down to some genius marketing on their part. If we’re talking Rocket and the Guardians of the Galaxy specifically, it begins with the relaunch of Guardians a year ago on the back of the movie development, and the creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven. Combining a bit of meticulously planned timing with that specific creative team (and the regular round of marketing and variant thresholds), the series launched to an estimated tune of 211,312 copies for issue one – or, if you want to nitpick, 80,344 copies for the prologue issue #0.1. To put that in a kind of context, the previous ongoing Guardians book from 2008 debuted to a paltry 36,282 copies. Why? Well, there clearly wasn’t anything wrong with the creative team – after all, they formed the basis of what would become the current phenomena – it was a matter of marketing and timing. Quesada, for all the good he did for the company, never quite understood the cosmic side of the Marvel universe (a fact that he’s admitted in several interviews over the years) and as a direct or indirect result, when good books were coming out in this realm, the marketing never gelled. The same goes for any comic shop – if your proprietor doesn’t understand the appeal of a certain title, there’s a good chance that book won’t get a big push within the walls of that store as focus tends to remain elsewhere. As a business entity, it always pays to ignore taste (to an extent) and push through the blocks set up in your mind in order to gain the largest audience for the property in question. This is a lesson Marvel has clearly learned.

Everything about the release of Rocket Raccoon makes sense. A great creator matched with a great concept, dropped not a month before he stars in a big movie. An announcement made months in advance of regular solicitations to build up pressure alongside the movie, allowing retailers to hear whispers from their customers long before orders are even available to place, culminating in a fever pitch when orders are due. And then, there’s the fact that Marvel let the numbers slip the week before retailers had to set their Final Order Cut-Off numbers, allowing lazier retailers to shake their head and wonder if they’ve ordered enough themselves. Everything about this launch was perfectly timed, and should result in solid sales – at least for Marvel. As for possible sell through, that remains to be seen. Some of this hypothetical 300,000+ print run involves incentive covers running off of qualifiers that have goosed the numbers – but considering the fact that Marvel put heavier incentives on the first issue of Guardians and still came up with a smaller number speak volumes for what they’ve put together here.

art by Paco Medina

art by Paco Medina

Now before I call it a day, there remains another facet of this marketing tale left unexplored: that of the Legendary Star Lord book from Sam Humphries and Paco Medina. In all of the hubbub for this, I you’d be hard pressed to find people talking about this book, which I think is a shame. For all the good Marvel did in marketing Rocket, they really dropped the ball on Star Lord – which is to say, the numbers are probably very healthy, but could they be as healthy as they could have been? This should have been announced the week after the Rocket Raccoon announcement. The company should have been out there pounding the pavement with preview art and concepts. I’m a big fan of the works of both Humphries and Medina, and think they are a great match for this character – one that might not be as zeitgeist grabbing as the dude responsible for years of amazing variant covers and the gorgeous art that graced the Marvel Oz books, but still, there should have been more happening. As a result of some personal hustle, I have pre-order numbers that are quite comparable to that of my Rocket Raccoon numbers. That’s down to marketing – and while I understand there will never be a time where companies like Marvel or DC will treat all properties equally, it always pains me to see a marketing opportunity lost. I want books in the hands of people who are going to enjoy them, and I can’t always do that by myself. The comic book industry needs everyone to pull their own weight the keep it running, and while a 300,000+ run of Rocket Raccoon is nice to see, it would have been great to see even a 200,000+ run of Legendary Star Lord announced as well.

That said, it isn’t over until it’s over, and who knows? Maybe in a few months time, retailers will be swimming in Rocket Raccoon #1’s while scrambling to get second prints of Legendary Star Lord. The market is a strange and wonderful place, and in the end, despite, it’s always the readers who have the final say. Hopefully, we get two very healthy ongoings out of this, as I feel both books will deserve a healthy readership. Time will tell.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and stares at passive keyboards and empty word documents, making secret wishes and bargains that will surely come back to haunt him. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat]

15 Comments on The Retailer’s View: On Rocket Raccoon Orders Topping 300,000, last added: 6/12/2014
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25. INTERVIEW: Dylan Todd on Designing Monkeybrain, Creating Covers, and Art Direction in Comics

Comics design is something everybody appreciates whenever they walk into a store – in many cases, it’s one of the central reasons why they try a comic series they’ve never seen before. And yet it’s something which doesn’t get discussed as much as it perhaps should do, considering the importance of a good logo or cover design. Which is why I approached Dylan Todd a short while back to ask him a few questions about what comics design entails, what good art direction offers a comic, and where he thinks design should be improved within the industry.

Todd is best known perhaps as the main artistic designer for Monkeybrain Comics, where he developed the design of their interior layouts, as well as the central logo for the company and several of the comic mastheads. He’s also worked on various other comics, including Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham’s ‘Five Ghosts’; ‘Sacrifice’ by Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose; and many others. He’s a man who knows what he’s talking about, which is always a good thing when you’re talking to somebody like me – who rarely knows what he’s talking about.

He was kind enough to take part in an interview with The Beat about his process, what he looks for in a design, and just why it remains one of the most important facets in the creation of a series. His answers are fascinating, and well worth reading in full:

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Steve: How did you get involved in design as a career? Do you have a background in art and design?

Dylan: Yeah, design is my career. For my day job, I’m an art director and designer in-house at a place here in Vegas. I started drawing in fourth grade, around the same time I discovered comics. I’ve always been interested in design, though when I was younger, I didn’t really know that was what I was interested in.

I remember the Dick Tracy movie campaign — which ran ads in every comic for months leading up to the release — being a real eye-opener for me, because it wasn’t just illustration, which I thought was what I was interested in, because there was also type involved and the copywriting style alongside the iconic, primary-colored illustrations. A few years later, I read or heard about design and thought, “Oh yeah; that’s what I want to do.”

Steve: Were you always a comics reader? I’m wondering if there may have been any dovetailing between an interest in comics and your subsequent interest and career in design.

Dylan: Until I was 10 or 11, I had no idea comics existed. But one night I slept over at a friends’ house and he pulled out a box of Jonah Hex and Nth Man and Masters of the Universe comics and my mind was blown. I grew up with Spider-Man cartoons and Wonder Woman TV shows, but had no idea that there were comics, too. And they came out every month!

The next day, we walked down to the 7-11 at the end of the street and he showed me the spinner rack full of comics that, somehow, I had never noticed before. I’m not 100% sure, but I’m pretty sure Fantastic Four #313 was my first purchase. I was hooked from then on out. I remember sitting in my friends’ yard with a hand-stapled comic, drawing the cover and taking a long time on the masthead (which was a perspectival, X-Men-ish thing) and our publisher logo. (Which was probably something like Cool Dudes Comics.) Way more time than on the actual cover.

Steve: How did you first make the move to work in comics? What was your first project?

Dylan: My first project was designing the cover for Curt Franklin and Chris Haley’s first collection of Let’s Be Friends Again strips, Under Pressure, which was a lot of fun to work on.

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My first “big break,” was working with Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose on their self-published series, Sacrifice. Sam had followed me on Tumblr, saw some stuff I’d posted and hit me up to see if I’d be interested. I said, “Um YES,” because I’d just read Our Love Is Real, and knew he was super-talented. Then he showed me Dalton’s artwork with Pete Toms’ coloring on top of it, and I couldn’t resist.

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I’m a huge fan of everybody involved in that project: Sam, Dalton, Pete (who, if you haven’t read his comics, is just a real talent. Go check out On Hiatus over at Study Group. It’s hilarious and beautiful.), editor Alejandro Arbona, who’s the Associate Editor at Valiant now. It was intimidating to be included alongside those guys.

Steve: What would you say is the core goal of a strong design? Is the aim to convey as much as possible in as simple an image or design as possible?

Dylan: I think good design communicates. Period. Whether it’s minimal or maximal or in-between-imal, good design tells a story through art and typography and iconography. For comics, that’s usually a cover that catches the eye, lures a reader in, and gets them interested enough to plop down three or four bucks for, well, more words and pictures that tell a story.

Steve: Branding is a huge undertaking, and one which you took on for the launch of Monkeybrain Comics. How did that originally come about? Did Chris Roberson and Allison Baker approach you?

Dylan: I’d met Chris and Allison at an iZombie signing here in town and chatted with them while I waited in line to gaze uncomfortably upon the visage of Mike Allred. (He’s so dreamy.) I gave them my card and we started following each other on Twitter and stuff, chatting back and forth every now and then.

After Chris cut ties with writing for the Big Two, you could tell they were up to something, so when I got an e-mail to chat with them about “something cool,” I knew I wanted in on whatever this thing was.

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Steve: What were the goals of the design? Was there a brief of what kind of identity they wanted for Monkeybrain?

Dylan: There wasn’t a brief per se, but we had a phone call where we talked about what they needed, the type of versatility the mark needed to have, what their end goal with the mark was, what sort of things it would be used for, etc. I’ve since developed a “new project questionnaire” that I give to new clients, but our phone call basically ticked off all the boxes there, so I knew what direction to be headed in. The only real restriction was that they had this icon they’d used previously for Chris’ novels, that literal monkey-brain drawing, and they wanted the mark to be fun, but not too fun that they wouldn’t be dismissed as not being serious enough.

Steve: If we take the main Monkeybrain logo as a starting point – this is a logo which uses the same image as Monkeybrain Books, but then adds to and around that central point. How did you approach building up the logo for Monkeybrain?

Dylan: So yeah, once we established the tone we wanted and set some parameters, I got started with my usual, what I call, “wool-gathering”: looking at reference, making word lists, sketching out rough ideas, building computer comps, deciding what to develop and what to toss. I remember looking through the Comixology publishers page and seeing which marks jumped out as you scrolled past quickly. With most things, it’s the simpler, easier reads that are memorable and jump out at you.

I think we went two rounds with the logo, with my first round being close, but overall too whimsical. (I’d had a gut feeling I was being too goofy, but went ahead and shared where I was at to get feedback) Once we looked over the first batch, I sent another round with the one we ended up going with. It was one of those projects where, as soon as I finished that comp, I knew that was the one they’d pick. Feels good man.

Steve: Did knowing this would be a digital launch affect the way you approached your design of Monkeybrain’s logo and branding? Your logo would need to be appropriate for a twitter avatar, for use on ComiXology – does there have to be an added versatility in design now?

Dylan: Oh definitely. I mean, end use of a design should always, not necessarily dictate the design, but at the very least, inform it. It’s something that you need to always have in the back of your brain as you go through the process, regardless of the project. But creating versatile marks and branding systems is something you’re trained to do in school. You need something that works horizontally, or can be stacked, something you can use as a social media icon, something recognizable when it’s shrunk down to an inch or blown up 3 feet wide.

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Steve: Do you feel as though the rise of digital has now changed the way comics are designed as a whole? Instead of appealing to readers amidst a shelf of other comics, issues are now struggling for reader attention as undersized icons on, say, ComiXology.

Dylan: I think it’s still too early to say. I think there’s a lot of savvy creators who are definitely keeping digital in mind, but I also think there’s enough people who see digital comics as just a variation of the print product and approach it with that same mindset. It’s not that dissimilar from going from having a 12” LP to design a cover for, to a 5” CD to a 200 pixel iTunes album preview.

I think a good design by a good designer is going to work regardless of size, but I also think you need to remember how your art’s going to need to be used rather than approaching it in a one-size-fits-all mindset. There are titles I purchase digitally that I constantly manage to scroll past when I’m doing my digital New Comic Book Day shopping that look just fine on the shelf, but manage to get lost in the visual noise that is a digital storefront. Digital vs. print isn’t an apples vs. oranges thing, but it’s maybe an orange vs. grapefruit thing. Like, it’s still a citrus fruit, but it’s its own citrus fruit that’s consumed differently.

Did that make sense?

Steve: Looking across the various Monkeybrain covers and logos, the most striking thing is how different they all look, emphasising the variety of genre and styles in the stories the company publish. Was there ever an interest in creating a shared concept for the design of each book, or was this always the idea?

Dylan: The three MonkeyBrain titles I’ve done masthead design work for, Edison Rex, Theremin and Copernicus Jones: Robot Detective, are all wildly different books. I mean, one’s a supervillain-turned-hero book, one’s a psychedelic alternate history action thing and one’s a robot noir, so I’ve approached each of them from those starting points. From the beginning, Chris and Allison wanted to give the creators the freedom to come up with their own ideas and look while still managing to make it all feel like part of a whole.

dt8

One of the great things about MonkeyBrain — and one of the biggest challenges in coming up with their main logo and identity — is that they publish a crazy amount of different titles. So my goal was to find a mark and look that could apply to everything from superhero stuff Like Edison Rex or Anti-Hero, to stuff like High Crimes or Amelia Cole or Bandette or Strange Nation. With the exception of Edison Rex, I had no hand in developing the visual identity for any of those other books, but I had to make sure the templates I provided for the credits and bio pages, etc. were variable enough to allow for a host of genres and stories.

Steve: What influences the choices behind the fonts you use? “monkeybrain” here is in all-lowercase as well, which is possibly to highlight the company’s more informal and open approach to publishing?

Dylan: Will it completely blow the mystique if I tell you that the logo is that way because it made a nicer shape with only had the stem of the “K” and the descender on the “Y” sticking out of the shape of the logomark? Haha. I mean, yes, the friendliness of lowercase was definitely a factor, but the final decision came down to it looking nicer with most of the letters taking up the same visual rectangle of space. Sorry?

Steve: Fair enough! You’ll notice that lots of my questions are perhaps somewhat vague here, which is because I don’t know how to talk about design, particularly! I’m trying to learn. Do you find that people do tend to misunderstand or misrepresent the role of design in comics?

Dylan: Graphic design is really hard to understand in general. One of my professors in college told us a story about his dad, who could never understand what exactly he did for a living. My professor was home visiting and one of those Claymation California Raisin commercials came on. His dad looked at him, and said, pleadingly, “Is this what you do for a living?” My professor sadly told him it wasn’t. His dad finally, resignedly, threw his hands up in the air and said, “I’m never gonna get it.”

It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around. And really, design in comics hasn’t really been a thing until fairly recently. You have people like Jim Steranko and his work on FOOM in the 70s, but largely, it wasn’t until the Direct Market took hold and collections became a thing you could buy rather than hunting down back issues from retailers and comics started competing with books in bookstores (for younger readers, bookstores were IRL Amazon.coms) that designers were really brought in to make the product look like, well, a product as opposed to a pulpy, disposable entertainment module that was produced in the quickest fashion possible.

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Steve: We’re in a period now where comics are being pulled apart more by fans and critics, and the role of colourists, letterers, inkers are getting more attention. With people like – for example – Jonathan Hickman placing a particular importance on design, do you think we’re starting to now see people pay more attention to art direction and design in comics?

Dylan: I hope so. I think people like Hickman, who has a good eye for design, and Jim Rugg, who won national design awards for his and Brian Maruca’s Afrodisiac, Rian Hughes’ work on the Valiant relaunch and now Dynamite’s Gold Key line, basically the entire output of Fantagraphics and Adhouse, the Steranko revival we’re seeing (his work on Marvel’s FOOM fanzine in the 70s is still some of the best superhero-related work out there), all are working to make comics look better, and that helps the recognition of design’s effect on comics.

Even having Chip Kidd, who is a fantastic book jacket designer (though I think his comics work mostly stinks), doing work in the comics sphere is a good sign.

The sad fact is that most comics design is pretty poor. And I get the reasons why: tight deadlines, overworked staff, corporate politics and cost-cutting, last-minute editorial decisions, being in this weird transition period between comics being this physical thing that sat piled on a shelf in a neckbeard pulp dungeon to something you can read on a future-tablet wherever you want. I get it, I do. I just want sexy, cool-looking comics. I want to try harder.

Steve: What do you want to see more from in terms of comics design? Or on the other hand, what concepts do you think we could do with less of right now?

Dylan: I’d like to see more experimentations, more risks, more pushing how a comic book is presented. More conceptual thinking and daring executions.

As far as what we need less of? Less covering up weak executions with textures or effects. Less “first idea is the best idea” concepts.

Also, more holofoil.

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Steve: You write for Comics Alliance, and a few years back had a series of interviews with designers which I’d recommend people track down – in fact, with several of the people you mentioned above. Which designers do you admire, yourself? Which companies or books have especially strong work right now?

Dylan: Off the top of my head, my design heroes are Stefan Sagmeister, Milton Glaser, Jeff Kleinsmith, Chip Kidd, Rian Hughes, Aesthetic Apparatus, Bradbury Thompson, Paula Scher, Vaughan Oliver and the Australian duo behind We Buy Your Kids. I’m probably forgetting somebody, but those are the big ones for me.

As far as publishers who are really putting out top-notch work: Fantagraphics, AdHouse, manga publisher Vertical, 2000 AD/Rebellion. Lots of cool stuff coming out from Image, though that’s more a book-by-book type of thing, but I really like covers for Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood’s The Fuse, Jasons Aaron and LaTour’s Southern Bastards. Fonografik’s work on Nowhere Men was excellent and his work for Saga is so simple and great. Tom Muller’s work for Ales Kot’s Zero and Jeff Lemire’s Trillium has been fantastic, surprising no one.

I’m not sure who did the design for the Manifest Destiny book, but that’s a really nice masthead. Vertigo’s FBP’s always looking on-point. I really like the design for Joe Casey’s Dark Horse superhero book, Catalyst Comix. Again, I’m forgetting a lot, but that’s what stick out in my mind.

Steve: What other projects are you working on right now? Where can people find you, and your work, online?

Dylan: Right now, I’m finishing up design for for Curt Pires and Jason Copland’s upcoming POP mini-series from Dark Horse, as well as finishing up an anthology I’ve been working on for the last six months or so titled 2299, featuring sci-fi future stories from Kyle Starks, Derek Charm, Nolan T. Jones, Kevin Church, Jordan Witt, Caleb Goeller, and a bunch of other people. It’ll be a 96-page-or-so anthology that we’ll have available through Gumroad in the near future and I’m really excited about it. Lots of dayglo future comics.

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As far as where you can find me, my comics and pop culture design portfolio is located at bigredrobot.net (I have a non-comics design site as well at dylantodd.com). You can follow me on Twitter at @bigredrobot. I also have a bunch of Tumblrs, but my main one’s here. Guttersniper, which is more design/comics-focused, is here.

1 Comments on INTERVIEW: Dylan Todd on Designing Monkeybrain, Creating Covers, and Art Direction in Comics, last added: 6/12/2014
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